After Indianapolis bathed in the national spotlight for successfully hosting the college football championship earlier this month, a Republican state legislator brought the state a darker kind of attention.
State Sen. Scott Baldwin, R-Noblesville, actually told a legislative committee on Jan. 5 that his Senate Bill 167 would require teachers to be “impartial” in teaching all subjects, including Nazism, Marxism and fascism.
He walked back the comments the very next day, telling The Indianapolis Star in an email that his intent was to require impartiality on “legitimate political groups” and that Nazism, Marxism and fascism are a “stain on our world history and should be regarded as such.”
But the explanation was too late. The damage was done. His initial repulsive, insensitive words were already spreading in news reports around the world, including the Times of Israel, the Guardian of London and The Washington Post.
Baldwin, and by extension the state, also was skewered by late-night talk show host Stephen Colbert, who wryly noted that if everything had to be taught impartially, the only subjects left would be “shop class and six hours of dodge ball.”
Sadly, Indiana has had this kind of attention before, when the Republican-dominated Legislature passed an ill-conceived Religious Freedom Restoration Act in 2015 that was believed to allow discrimination against LGBTQ Hoosiers. RFRA caused such a national uproar that lawmakers immediately had to change it to help maintain Indianapolis’ status as a favored host of national and international sporting events.
Baldwin’s comments only reinforced some Americans’ impression of Indiana as a discriminatory backwater, instead of the warm, welcoming place many residents, sports fans and conventioneers have come to know.
Thankfully, Senate President Pro Tem Rodric Bray, R-Martinsville, and his caucus put the kibosh on Baldwin’s bill before it could become law.
After the outcry over Baldwin’s comments, Bray announced that Senate Republicans “have determined there is no path forward for the bill and it will not be considered.”
Our hope now is that Bray will bring the same moderating influence to a similar bill pending in the Indiana House, should it move forward.
That bill would require classroom materials to be posted online and vetted by parent review committees and place restrictions on teaching about racism and political topics.
Bray’s moderating presence also would be welcome on House Bill 1001, which unnecessarily limits employers’ ability to keep their workplaces safe by allowing broad exemptions to employer mandates that workers be vaccinated against COVID-19.
And his caution also would be appreciated on the House Republicans’ $1 billion tax-cut proposal.•
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