Federal Funds Earmarked for Far-Right Group to ‘Combat Evolution’

Over the weekend, the New Orleans Times-Picayune revealed that a federal spending bill contains a substantial sum of money budgeted for the Louisiana Family Forum, apparently for the purpose of combating the teaching of evolution and global warming in public schools. The earmark, inserted by Republican Sen. David Vitter, provides $100,000 to the group for the purpose of “develop[ing] a plan to promote better science education,” but as the newspaper points out, LFF has been a leading advocate of creationism in the state:

The group’s stated mission is to “persuasively present biblical principles in the centers of influence on issues affecting the family through research, communication and networking.” Until recently, its Web site contained a “battle plan to combat evolution,” which called the theory a “dangerous” concept that “has no place in the classroom.” The document was removed after a reporter’s inquiry. …

In 2002, the Louisiana Family Forum unsuccessfully sought to persuade the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education to insert a five-paragraph disclaimer in all of its science texts challenging the natural science view that life came about by accident and has evolved through the process of natural selection.

The group notched a victory last year when the Ouachita School Board adopted a policy that, without mentioning the Bible or creationism, gave teachers leeway to introduce other views besides those contained in traditional science texts.

LFF, a “family policy council” affiliated with Focus on the Family, was founded in 1999 by Tony Perkins, before he became president of the Family Research Council and gained national prominence.

Vitter defended the earmark as an “important program” that “helps supplement and support educators and school systems that would like to offer all of the explanations in the study of controversial science topics such as global warming and the life sciences.”

The money in the earmark will pay for a report suggesting “improvements” in science education in Louisiana, the development and distribution of educational materials and an evaluation of the effectiveness of the Ouachita Parish School Board’s 2006 policy that opened the door to biblically inspired teachings in science classes.

Vitter made news this summer when phone records from the “D.C. Madam” showed him to be a customer of a prostitution ring while he served in Congress. While Rev. Gene Mills, director of Louisiana Family Forum, said the $100,000 earmark is “a bit of a surprise,” it’s hard not to notice that Mills has been one of the few voices coming to Vitter’s defense. In this interview, which LFF posted online two weeks, ago, Mills claimed that comparisons with this summer’s other Republican senator involved in a sex scandal—Idaho’s Larry Craig, who was caught in a bathroom solicitation sting—were a matter of the media doing “what it can to smear any of the family values guys.”