1. Opinion

Baxley tries to turn back the clock Ruth: Baxley tries to turn back the clock on climate change, evolution

The Florida state senator has filed legislation that would require teaching alternative theories.
Published Feb. 8, 2019

Even if you are a modest observer of the Florida Legislature, you have probably come to the conclusion that if Sen. Dennis Baxley, R-Sackcloth & Ashes, had his way every school would be named after Robert E. Lee, pelts would be the official state currency, there would be a gun in every bassinet and women accused of witchcraft would be dunked in the Hillsborough River.

Baxley, serving the needs of Florida's body politic since 1692, has never met a clock he didn't want to turn back.

The Ocala Republican and his disciples of demagoguery are at it — again — as Tallahassee prepares for the legislative session, filing several bills in their quest to turn the state into a Dogpatch theocracy. Baxley has filed a bill that would allow school districts across the state to teach students what he refers to as so-called alternative theories to "controversial theories" such as evolution and climate change.

Baxley is essentially serving as the front for the Florida Citizens Alliance, an uber conservative special interest group that claims Florida public schools are little more than a left-wing, socialist den of political indoctrination. The Florida Citizens Alliance, like many Tallahassee lobbying groups, wrote the "We"re All Doomed!" anti-science/anti-reality/anti-education bill. Baxley merely rolled over and filed it on the group's behalf.

Other legislation would require high schools to offer an elective course on the Bible and religion (uh, guess which one?) even though state law already allows school districts to provide courses that offer an objective study of the Good Book.

But back to Baxley and his proselytizing apostles of the Apalachee Parkway.

The Florida Citizens Alliance and their faithful Friar Tuck of fake hysteria have introduced a piece of cynical legislation predicated on a false premise.

There is nothing "controversial" about the proven science of evolution or climate change. These concepts have been validated repeatedly by people who are completely foreign to likes of Baxley and the Florida Citizens Alliance — scientists who actually know what they are talking about. You see the problem.

The senator and his followers are perfectly free to advocate for the teaching of the Bible. That's exactly why we have faith-based schools. It's why we have churches. It is also why — and this may come as something of a Revelation(?) to Baxley that public schools do indeed address Christianity and a host of other faiths in the teaching of history such as the Reformation, the Crusades, the Inquisition and the pursuit of religious freedom that drew so many people to the New World.

Baxley's fire-breathing bill would also require that history curriculum uniformly require civic content and government classes that shall "strictly adhere to the founding values and principles of the United States." Baxley may get more than he bargained for.

It seems Baxley is of the opinion the only remaining vestige of the U.S. Constitution is the Electoral College, which might suggest the Elmer Gantry of Tallahassee has fallen woefully behind in reading the very founding document he supposedly has sworn to protect and defend.

At last glance there has been no effort to get rid of such constitutionally protected items like free speech, freedom of religion, the right to bear arms, trials by juries, bans against unreasonable searches and seizures and most thankfully the part about getting rid of Prohibition.

What constitution has Baxley been reading? Venezuela's?

Would the loyal factotum of the Sons of the Confederacy, who has resisted efforts to remove statues glorifying men who committed treason against the United States, prefer to sanitize the teaching of history to remove any references to slavery as the leading cause of the Civil War?

If we only adhere to "values and principles" in the teaching of American government and civics, would Baxley then censor history books to excise any mention of Andrew Jackson's genocidal Trail of Tears, Franklin Roosevelt's internment of Japanese-American citizens during World War II,, the Tuskegee syphilis experiments, McCarthyism, the presidential lies that plunged the United States into Vietnam and Iraq, Jim Crow Laws and the economic follies that led to the Great Depression?

It's been said no man's life, liberty or property are safe when the Florida Legislature is in session. You might add common sense to that endangered list, especially whenever Dennis Baxley sets foot on the floor of the Florida Senate.

God help us.