Vi Simpson: The Woman Who Punked The Radical Republicans in the Indiana State Senate and Their Creationist Bill
After interviewing Vi Simpson, the Indiana State Senate Minority Leader, I'm wondering why the hell I haven't already seen this woman on national television or in the mainstream press.
I hope you see what I mean after you hear what she had to say about the way she crippled the latest Creationism-in-the-schools bill with a brilliant stratagem: by convincing the radical Republicans in the Indiana State Senate that if they want to teach Christianity in the schools, they're also going to have to teach Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, and even Scientology.
The Democrat, who represents a district centered on Bloomington, says she was just trying to come up with a way to deal with a religious crusade at the state capitol.
"We have elected a lot of folks, particularly in 2010, who have fundamentalist Christian backgrounds and what I consider a radical agenda of imposing their beliefs on others," she says.
The latest onslaught was a bill sponsored by Republican Senator Dennis Kruse, just the latest of attempts around the country to get equal time for Creationism in science classrooms. (Such laws are routinely ruled unconstitutional, but that never seems to hinder young-Earth activists. I have also put in a call with Senator Kruse.)
"The bill was originally talking about 'Creationist Science,' and I thought that was a bit of an oxymoron," Simpson says. "I wanted to draft an amendment that would do two things. First, it would remove it from the science realm. And second, school boards and the state of Indiana should not be in the business of promoting one religion over another."
Simpson says that she had learned about world religions in school, and considered it a valuable experience. "But I think of it as literature or philosophy," she says. "I wanted to clarify that if they wanted to teach Christianity, they should teach other religions as well."
When the bill was on its second reading in the Senate, at a time when anyone can propose an amendment, Simpson offered this wording...
The governing body of a school corporation may offer instruction on various theories of the origin of life. The curriculum for the course must include theories from multiple religions, which may include, but is not limited to, Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, and Scientology.
I asked her why, of all things, she included Scientology.
"I wish it was something more dramatic, but what I did was I asked some of our staff people to do a little research and to come up with the major religions that might have differing ideas about the origin of life. And Scientology was on that list they came up with, and so it got added to the amendment."
(Scientology, a major religion? I can see I'll have to send Senator Simpson a link to our story, "Scientologists: How many of them are there, anyway?" In that story we examine the evidence which suggests that there are only about 40,000 active Scientologists in the entire world, despite the church's outrageous claims to tens of millions of members.)
Simpson's amendment was a brilliant attempt to sabotage the bill. By adding in other religions (Islam, in Indiana!), her wording would probably make the bill completely unattractive to local school boards, who are under no obligation to follow its suggestion anyway.
"I was a bit surprised that it was adopted, to tell you the truth," she says.
Were the Republicans simply too dense to figure out that they had joined a majority to water down their own bill, I asked. Was Dennis Kruse, the sponsor, unaware of what was going on?
"Well, he supported my amendment. I can't imagine that we were on the same page, but he came up to me afterwards and he said, 'Now that we supported your amendment, are you going to support the bill?' No, I don't think so," she says with a laugh.
"I still voted against the bill. I think it's unacceptable to be dictating to local school boards that kind of curriculum."
It was Scientology's inclusion that caught our eye and put us on to this story earlier today. I asked Simpson if, when she proposed the amendment, she was familiar with L. Ron Hubbard's wild stories of human development on this planet, including our infestation by disembodied alien souls.
"I was not, but some people have done some research in the last 24 hours. It turns out that it is kind of an interesting story. And interestingly enough, I've received some complaints from people in the state, who are asking me why I left out Native American religion and some others. It turns out there are a lot of religions we could have included!"
So what's going to happen to this bill now that it's passed the Indiana senate?
"I offered that amendment because I wanted to get the bill out of the science category, and secondly because I wanted to give school board members some pause, to get them thinking about what kinds of things would come up in the classroom, and that they wouldn't be able to get away with only a Christian or a Genesis perspective.
"That was my intent. How it's going to play out I can't tell you," she says. "The author of the bill seems to think I improved it. If the amendment stays in the bill, I think it will give school boards reason not to adopt it."
From here, the bill goes to a House committee and then the full House. As in the Senate, further amendments can change it.
"My own personal hope is that the bill has some kind of demise of one kind or another," Simpson says. "My number one intention is to kill the bill or at least kill the effectiveness of it."
I thanked Senator Simpson for our conversation, and I'm left with the question: Rachel Maddow, why haven't you had this woman on your show yet?
Tony Ortega is the editor-in-chief of The Village Voice. Since 1995, he's been writing about Scientology at several publications.
Keep up on all of our New York news coverage at this blog, Runnin' Scared
SCIENTOLOGY IN THE VILLAGE VOICE
[All recent stories] | [What is Scientology?] | [Top 25 People Crippling Scientology] [Commenters of the Week] | [Thursday 2pm Stats!] | [Scientology vs. South Park] [This Week Aboard the Apollo] | [Sunday Funnies]
[Scientology spokesman Tommy Davis secretly recorded discussing "disconnection"] [Benjamin Ring, LA deputy sheriff, wants you to spend your 401K on Scientology] [Scientologists: How many of them are there, anyway?] [Scientology hates clean ice: The "Fair Game" operation that should turn your stomach] [Scientology hates clean ice, part 2: Another target, and the web as weapon] [Paulette Cooper, Scientology's original and worst nightmare: a Thanksgiving tribute]
THE TOP 25 PEOPLE CRIPPLING SCIENTOLOGY
1. L. Ron Hubbard | 2. David Miscavige | 3. Marty Rathbun | 4. Tom Cruise | 5. Joe Childs and Tom Tobin | 6. Anonymous | 7. Mark Bunker | 8. Mike Rinder | 9. Jason Beghe | 10. Lisa McPherson | 11. Nick Xenophon | 12. Tommy Davis | 13. Janet Reitman | 14. Tory Christman | 15. Andreas Heldal-Lund | 16. Marc and Claire Headley | 17. Jefferson Hawkins | 18. Amy Scobee | 19. The Squirrel Busters | 20. Trey Parker and Matt Stone | 21. Kendrick Moxon | 22. Jamie DeWolf | 23. Ken Dandar | 24. Dave Touretzky | 25. Xenu
HELD ABOARD THE FREEWINDS: TALES OF THE SEA ORG
[Valeska Paris, held against her will from 1996 to 2007 on Scientology's cruise ship] [Ramana Dienes-Browning, marriage at 16, sexual interrogation, life in the engine room] [Melissa Paris, Valeska's sister: forced to marry at 16]
SCIENTOLOGY VS. SOUTH PARK: INVESTIGATION AS RETALIATION
[Scientology targeted South Park's Parker and Stone in an investigation] [More documents in the South Park probe: instructions to send in a young mole] [Scientology responds in typical fashion] | [Lloyd Kaufman confirms the probe] [Mark Ebner also investigated after South Park involvement] [Mark Chauppetta, private eye, explains what Scientology operatives look for]
MARTY RATHBUN AND THE SIEGE OF SOUTH TEXAS
[Scientology has Rathbun arrested] | [Rathbun and Mark Bunker reveal surprising ties] In Germany with Ursula Caberta: [Announcing plans] | [Press conference] | [Making news about Tom Cruise, Bill Clinton, and Tony Blair] | [Post-trip interview] The Squirrel Busters: [Goons with cameras on their heads] | [Rathbun's open letter to neighbors] | [Ingleside on the Bay, Texas rallies to Rathbun's cause] | [Squirrel Buster's claim to be making a "documentary"] | [VIDEO: "On a Boat"] | ["Anna" sent to creep out Monique Rathbun] | [Squirrel Busters go hillbilly] | [A videographer blows the whistle on the goon squad] | [Ed Bryan, OT VIII, shows the power of Scientology's highest levels]
SCIENTOLOGY SPYING AND "FAIR GAME"
[Secret Scientology documents spell out spying operation against Marc Headley] [Scientology's West U.S. spies list revealed] | [Scientology's enemies list: Are you on it?] Spy operation against Washington Post writer Richard Leiby: [Part 1] | [Part 2] [A Scientology spy comes clean: Paulien Lombard's remarkable public confession] [Scientology advertises for writers in Freedom magazine] [Accidental leak shows Scientology spy wing plans to "handle" the Voice] [Lori Hodgson and Disconnection: "No one's going to take my eternity away"]
SCIENTOLOGY AND CELEBRITIES
[Hey, Scientology Celebrity, Here's Your Media Training Checksheet!] [Tom Cruise and X Factor's Stacy Francis singing together on the Freewinds] [X Factor's Stacy Francis: Her first husband, Michael Sandlofer, answers abuse claims] [Tom Cruise and Baby Suri embarrassed by news item, so someone must pay] ["Tom Cruise told me to talk to a bottle"] | [Tom Cruise likes coconut cake] | [Tom Cruise has a sense of humor] | ["Tom Cruise not a kook!"] | [Paulette Cooper on Tom Cruise] [Paul Haggis, director of Crash, issues an ultimatum, leaves the church] [Character actor Jason Beghe defects noisily] | [Actor Michael Fairman reveals his "suppressive person" declaration] | [Michael Fairman talks to the Voice] [Giovanni Ribisi as David Koresh: Scientology-Branch Davidian link makes sense] [Russell Brand weds ex-Scientologists in wild ceremony] | [Skip Press on Haggis] [Placido Domingo Jr.: Scientology's retaliation is "scary and pathetic"] Grant Cardone, NatGeo's "Turnaround King": [Doing Scientology's dirty work?] | [Milton Katselas complained about Cardone's smear job] | [Cardone runs to Huffpo] [Philip Boyd, Saving Grace actor, rips "the business that is Scientology"]
JANET REITMAN'S INSIDE SCIENTOLOGY
[Our review of Inside Scientology] | [An interview with Janet Reitman] | [A report from Reitman's first book tour appearance] | [At the Half-King: Reitman not afraid] [Scientology doesn't like Inside Scientology] | [Q&A at Washington Post] [A roundup of Reitman's print reviews, and why isn't she on television more?]
HUGH URBAN'S THE CHURCH OF SCIENTOLOGY
EX-SCIENTOLOGISTS SPEAK OUT
["The Money Machine": another blockbuster St. Pete Times investigation] [Marc Headley: "Tom Cruise told me to talk to a bottle"] | [The Nancy Many interview] [Sympathy for the Devil: Tory Christman's Story] | [Jeff Hawkins' Counterfeit Dreams] [86 Million Thin Dimes: The Lawrence Wollersheim Saga] | [Mike Rinder on spying]
[Scientology in Israel: Arson, attempted murder, paranoia -- and a visit by the Voice!] [Scientology dodges a bullet in Australia] | [Scientology exec Jan Eastgate arrested] [All hell breaks loose in Israel] | [Scientology sees fundraising gold in the UK riots] [Aussie former rugby pro Chris Guider calls David Miscavige "toxic" and "violent"] [Stephen Cox, UK church newbie, pledges 20K pounds] | [Biggi Reichert: A German Lisa McPherson?] | [The Birmingham trove: 7,000 internal e-mails] [Australian farmer blamed for giving Tom Cruise a bad shrimp, loses her friends, family]
ODD VIDEOS AND ODDER NEWS
[Scientology chillin' with hip hop!] | [The curious career of Scientology rapper Chill EB] [Chill EB and me: the Voice interviews Scientology's in-house rapper] [Scientology singalong, "We Stand Tall"] | [Captain Bill Robertson and "Galactic Patrol"] [Scientology wins a major award!] | [Scientology wants your money: Meet Dede!] [Birmingham in the House! The "Ideal" dance mix] | [Scientology and the Nation of Islam] [When Scientology was hip] | [Sad: David Miscavige makes fun of his own fundraisers] [Freedom magazine parodies The New Yorker. Hilarity ensues.] [Scientology surf report: Anonymous parties outside the New York "org"]
THE VIEW INSIDE THE BUBBLE
[A scientologist's letter to the Voice and its readers] | [Scientology silent birth] [Tad Reeves: Scientology might listen to this guy] | [More Tad Reeves and family] [Scientology never forgets: A heartwarming telemarketing holiday miracle] [Desperate Scientology fundraising caught on video]
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you’ll never miss Village Voice's biggest stories.
- Meet the Woman Who Uses Cosplay and Comic Cons to Lift the Spirits of Sick Children
- Here Are Ten (Or So) Graphic Novels to Watch Out For at NYCC
- The Man Behind 'Modern Seinfeld,' Focuses on His Own Neuroses in New Book