Monday, February 3, 2020

#2303: Ronda Storms

Ronda R. Storms is a former Florida State Senator (10th District) from 2006 to 2012 – she lost her comeback attempt in 2018 – and something of a legend for her deranged lunacy. Prior to serving in the Senate, Storms enjoyed an eight-year tenure on the Hillsborough County Commission (1998-2006). 

Adventures in science denial
Storms is probably most famous for her role in promoting the teaching of intelligent design creationism in public school science classrooms. In 2008, Storms introduced an academic freedom bill (co-sponsors were Stephen R. Wise and Carey Baker) modelled on the recommendations of the Discovery Institute, which would give teachers the right to teach the controversy (the bill’s sponsor in the House, Alan Hays, arranged for a private screening of the creationist promotion film Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed for legislators who were to vote on the bill, just to make sure they understood the purpose). The bill underwent substantial revisions, but ended up requiring the intelligent design lesson plan “Critical Analysis of Evolution” (which does not involve critical analysis) to be taught, before ultimately dying in committee. Though she ostensibly only wished to promote critical thinking about science – according to Storms the bill was not about letting religion into classrooms but about protecting the rights of students and teachers who don’t agree with the science behind Darwinian evolution (she curiously didn’t seem care about students and teachers who don’t agree with the spherical Earth theory or the germ theory of disease) – it is worth mentioning that when a proposal to have similar protections extended to sex-education were introduced, Storms voted against them. For more background on the bill, this is useful and this one is very good.

In connection with the bill Storms claimed that she was contacted by multiple teachers who had been disciplined for speaking of alternative theories. She wasn’t able to name any, though. Indeed, according to the Department of Education, there has never been a case in Florida where a public school teacher or public school student has claimed that they have been discriminated against based on their science teaching or science course work. Storms is, in other words, more or less as honest as you’d expect a fundie in a position of power and influence to be.

Storms is also a critic of the Dewey Decimal System, primarily because libraries tend to categorize books about creation and creationism with numbers associated with “religion” rather than “science”. According to Storms the system was, therefore, “too confusing” for her.

Storms has made other efforts to favor religion, provide financial support for organizations that work to introduce faith-based initiatives in public schools, introduce school prayers and generally break down the separation between church and state, too.

Yes, there is anti-gay stuff
In 2005, Storms was responsible for introducing a bill that banned displays of books celebrating gay and lesbian pride in county libraries, and indeed for the Commission to “adopt a policy that Hillsborough County government abstain from acknowledging, promoting or participating in gay pride recognition and events” of any kind. The motion passed. Then, because conditions were favorable, she got an addendum placed upon the bill that it cannot be repealed without a super majority vote of at least 5-2 and a public hearing. (It was nevertheless repealed in 2013.) Similarly, when she led a successful effort to block a statute which would prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation in the workplace, she also managed to raise the number of votes needed from commissioners to place the issue on direct referendum to county voters from four commissioners to five.

As an opponent of gay adoption – “I don't support putting at-risk children in homes that I think are at-risk themselves” – Storms was ostensibly surprised by criticisms from the gay community, complaining that she had experienced “all sorts of threats and horrible things said and done to me” despite the (alleged) fact that “I’ve never attacked anybody’s appearance”; indeed, according to herself, she had even worked with homosexuals and “have never done anything but treat them with dignity and respect in my personal working relationship with them.” You should probably stress the part after “in”. 

Diagnosis: Industrious and zealous, and precisely as honest and reasonable as you’d expect from a deranged fundamentalist in a State Senate. Hopefully neutralized, but she was never alone in her efforts, and there are plenty of similar loons to take her place.

1 comment:

  1. Well, she DID help the Profit Margins of the St. Petersburg Gay and Lesbian Pride Month Festival and Parade, since everyone in Hillsborough County just crossed the bay to participate in the St. Pete Pride Parade...making it quite popular.