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Fear and Trembling at the New Orleans Times Picayune

Opinion writer James Gill of the New Orleans Times Picayune is a tortured soul. After wringing his hands over Governor Jindal’s recent TV interview, Gill published a short list of things he fears. Using the royal “we,” though speaking only for himself, he publicly confessed five phobias:

1. “We’re scared that a lawsuit will be filed to invalidate the Louisiana Science Education Act (LSEA), because it is plainly unconstitutional and defending it would be futile.”

The LSEA became law in 2008. No lawsuit then. It is now 2013. Still no lawsuit. If we wait another five years will the LSEA become unconstitutional? And how would that happen, exactly? Can otherwise constitutional laws contract unconstitutionality like a disease?

2. “We tremble to think how much it would cost to go through [a lawsuit] again. The courts have slapped down every attempt to smuggle Adam and Eve into school.”

OK, weird. But no need to tremble. The LSEA plainly says no Adam, no Eve, no religion at all in public school science class:

This Section shall not be construed to promote any religious doctrine, promote discrimination for or against a particular set of religious beliefs, or promote discrimination for or against religion or nonreligion.

Angst-ridden columnists may find this language confusing, but school administrators and teachers don’t. And the LSEA is directed to the latter groups, not the first. So show us a brave face, Mr. Gill.

3. “We’re scared all right, and not just about money. We’re scared the rest of the country will think we’re all as dumb as Jindal down here.”

Really? You’re scared others will think you’re as “dumb” as a Rhodes Scholar with a biology degree from Brown who sits in the big chair in the capitol? I do not think that word means what you think it means.

4. “That’s the main reason we’re scared of the Science Education Act. By encouraging biology teachers to supplement the curriculum with ‘supplementary materials,’ it ferments confusion.”

Under the LSEA teachers can supplement the textbook or not as they see fit, within limits spelled out in the LSEA itself. Teachers, not columnists, know best when supplementation would “ferment” (I think he means “foment”) confusion in their classes.

5. “So we’re scared decent universities will disdain the products of our public schools.”

Universities don’t ask applicants whether their 10th-grade biology teacher supplemented textbook treatment of evolution or climate change. But if they ever start doing that, watch out. In that case there might well be a lawsuit, just not the one you pretend to fear.