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.

@VoiceTonyO | Facebook: Tony Ortega


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