Evolution memo prompts call for apology
By Jeremy Redmon, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution , February 16, 2007
The Anti-Defamation League is calling on state Rep. Ben Bridges to apologize for a memo distributed under his name that says the teaching of evolution should be banned in public schools because it is a religious deception stemming from an ancient Jewish sect.
Bridges (R-Cleveland) said he is considering filing legislation this year to remove evolution from Georgia's public schools, but he denies having anything to do with the memo.
One of his constituents, however, said he wrote the memo with Bridges' approval before it recently was distributed to lawmakers in several states, including Texas, California, New York, Illinois, Pennsylvania and Ohio.
"Indisputable evidence -- long hidden but now available to everyone -- demonstrates conclusively that so-called 'secular evolution science' is the Big-Bang 15-billion-year alternate 'creation scenario' of the Pharisee Religion," says the memo, which has Bridges' name on it. "This scenario is derived concept-for-concept from Rabbinic writings in the mystic 'holy book' Kabbala dating back at least two millennia."
The memo calls on lawmakers to introduce legislation that would end the teaching of evolution in public schools because it is "a deception that is causing incalculable harm to every student and every truth-loving citizen."
It also directs readers to www.fixedearth.com, which includes model legislation calling the Kabbala "a mystic, anti-Christ 'holy book' of the Pharisee Sect of Judaism." The Web site also declares "the earth is not rotating ... nor is it going around the sun."
The Anti-Defamation League says the assertions in the memo border on anti-Semitism.
"Your memo conjures up repugnant images of Judaism used for thousands of years to smear the Jewish people as cult-like and manipulative," Bill Nigut, the ADL's Southeast regional director, wrote in an e-mail to Bridges on Thursday. "I am shocked and appalled that you would send this anti-Semitic material to colleagues and friends, and call upon you to repudiate and apologize for distributing this highly offensive memo."
Bridges, chairman of the House Retirement Committee, denied writing or authorizing the memo.
"I did not put it out nor did I know it was going out," said Bridges, a former state trooper and aide to former Lt. Gov. Zell Miller. "I'm not defending it or taking up for it."
The memo directs supporters to call Marshall Hall, president of the Fair Education Foundation Inc., an organization based in Cornelia in northeast Georgia that seeks to show evolution is a myth. Hall said he showed Bridges the text of the memo and got his permission to distribute it.
"I gave him a copy of it months ago," said Hall, a retired high school teacher who said his wife, Bonnie, has repeatedly served as Bridges' campaign manager since 1996. "I had already written this up as an idea to present to him so he could see what it was and what we were thinking."
Bridges acknowledged that he talked to Hall about filing legislation this year that would end the teaching of evolution in Georgia's public schools. Bridges said the views in the memo belong to Hall, though Bridges said he doesn't necessarily disagree with them.
"I agree with it more than I would the Big Bang Theory or the Darwin Theory," said Bridges, who sponsored unsuccessful legislation in 2005 that would have required Georgia's teachers to introduce scientific evidence challenging evolution. "I am convinced that rather than risk teaching a lie, why teach anything?"
Asked about the ADL's call for an apology, Bridges said: "I regret that these people have been offended, but I didn't offend them because I didn't put the memo out."
Meanwhile, a Texas lawmaker says he is "willing to apologize" for giving fellow legislators the memo this week, The Dallas Morning News reported Thursday.
"The stuff that causes conflicts between religious beliefs, you know, I'd never be a party to that," Texas House Appropriations Chairman Warren Chisum told the Morning News on Wednesday. "I'm willing to apologize if I've offended anyone."
The newspaper reported Chisum made his comments after he learned the Anti-Defamation League was demanding an apology in a letter to his office.
In a Feb. 9 letter to fellow Texas House members, Chisum said he was delivering the evolution memo to them "on behalf of Representative Ben Bridges," saying the two met through the National Conference of State Legislatures. Bridges said he didn't know Chisum.
The National Center for Science Education, an Oakland, Calif.-based organization that defends the teaching of evolution in public schools, said the assertions in the memo are "completely bizarre."
"Evolution," said Glenn Branch, the center's deputy director, "is recognized as a central unifying principle of the biological sciences by the scientific community and the education community."
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