Tuesday, March 22, 2022

#2524: Dennis Baxley

Dennis K. Baxley is a Florida state legislator who has served in the Florida Senate (12th district) since 2016, and previously served in the Florida House of Representatives (2000–2007 and 2010–2016). He also served as executive director of the Florida Christian Coalition from 2008 to 2010.


Baxley is most famous for his defense of guns and gun rights and his general disgust for poor people and their right to choose, but for our purposes his most obvious qualification is his science denialism, especially his opposition to evolution and his climate change denialism. In 2019, Baxley sponsored legislation that would require public schools to teach skepticism about precisely evolution and climate change, complaining that current textbooks skew toward “uniformity” of thought, i.e. that they skew toward facts rather than alternative, silly ideas. Instead of facts, Baxley asserted that schools need to teach “different worldviews on these issues, because the facts aren’t to his liking. Facts, meanwhile, aren’t scientific, as Baxley sees it, since, as he rather confusedly put it, “nothing is ever settled if it’s science, because people are always questioning science”. Then he tried a sort of Galileo gambit: “If you look at the history of human learning, for a long time the official worldview was that the world was flat [that, of course, is a myth]. Anything you now accept as fact comes from a perspective and you learn from examining different schools of thought, which is not how one settles things in science – though it is interesting how fundies tend to go radical post-modernist when it suits them. The bill itself was, like many other Florida creationist bills, written by the unhinged fundie group the Florida Citizens Alliance, and was needed because the current curriculum amounts to political and religious indoctrination,” as the FCA managing director, Keith Flaugh, put it. The bill fortunately died.


The 2019 bill wasn’t Baxley’s first attempt. Also in 2018, Baxley submitted SB 966 (its house counterpart was HB825, sponsored by Charlie Stone), which would require thatcontroversial theories and concepts must be taught in a factual, objective and balanced manner” in science classes. Of course, the intention was precisely not to teach the theories and issues Baxley had in mind in factual and balanced manners (since they already are) but – as he has previously put it – to “leave the door open a little bit for “religious and other perspectives” on the origin of life. Note that “controversial” doesn’t mean scientifically controversial but that Baxley don’t like them for religious reasons. Baxley’s bill was, by the way, not Florida’s only creationism bill in 2018; there was also HB 827, introduced by Byron Donalds from Naples (its Senate companion being Senate Bill 1644, sponsored by Tom Lee, Baxley and two other Florida Senate creationists, Greg Steube and Debbie Mayfield); that one died, too. And in 2017, Baxley (and Kimberly Daniels) filed bills to protect (ostensibly)religious expression in public schools” and make sure students aren’t discriminated against if they share religious beliefs in their school work, which was rather obviously designed to allow students not to learn about evolution and climate change without being penalized – if you can’t teach anti-science, the second best you can do is to prevent students from learning science.


A virulent opponent of gay rights, Baxley voted against an otherwise uncontroversial 2015 bill that would make life easer for adopted kids because he prayed on it and decided that he couldn’t affirm homosexuality – banning adoption by homosexual couples had, after all, already been found to be unconstitutional. “I could save some kids, but that rationale breaks down in the bigger picture,” said Baxley. He also said that “I’m not phobic, but … (followed by “… I simply can’t affirm homosexuality”) and asked “people to please understand the circumstances”. It’s a somewhat curious context in which to find yourself begging for tolerance, but Baxley isn’t big on self-awareness.


Baxley probably first courted national attention back in 2008, when he asserted that Barack Obama’s “Muslim roots and training” were “pretty scary” to everyday Christians. He even elaborated on the concern, saying that he was particularly concerned because “there’s an active movement by radical Muslims to occupy us at present (2008) and that that whole way of life is all about submission,” and Baxley emphatically likes submission only in the sense that others should submit to his religious convictions, which Obama ostensibly doesn’t share: Obama “wants to tax the rich more and redistribute wealth to other peoplewhere I come from that’s socialism. Karl Marx was not a Christian.” Baxley was also concerned about Obama’s (then) trip to Europe and how he enjoyed visiting European countries, which to Baxley suggested that he wouldn’t be faithful to preserving “our own American values rooted in Christian principles” [no details about which Christian principles in particular, of course]. He wasn’t willing to discuss the matter further, sinceI really don’t talk about candidates. I talk about issues.” Well, then.


In May 2019, Baxley also used Replacement theory when ranting about abortion. Speaking of Western Europe birthrates as a warning to Americans, he said that “when you get a birth rate less than 2 percent, that society is disappearing, and it’s being replaced by folks that come behind them and immigrate, don’t wish to assimilate into that society and they do believe in having children.


Diagnosis: No, he’s certainly not one of the good guys. His constant need to remind people that he’s not evil should be a pretty significant clue, though he lacks the level of self-awareness needed to recognize that himself. One of many deranged fundie conspiracy theorists that plague state legislatures across the US.


  1. Your diagnosis could apply to most politicians in this country. Thank God I'm apolitical!