Oh, for the love of the Flying Spaghetti Monster!

Montana Republicans began stumbling down a shaky path when they fired off their “special alert” Oct. 9 with Chairman Karl Ohs’ response to the latest pre-election political kerfuffle.

Beneath the headline “Democrats Reveal Next Plank in Square Deal Plan—Schweitzer Administration Pledges to be Intolerant to People of Faith,” Ohs railed: “I think the level of intolerance and contempt that some in the Democratic Party have for people of faith is shameful…Rather than lashing out against diversity, we should be encouraging religious debate so that we might all gain a better understanding of the world around us.”

Ohs was responding to the apparent flap that Gov. Brian Schweitzer caused in Bozeman Oct. 6, while discussing global warming, the governor asked a crowd of school children and their chaperones who among them thought the planet was millions of years old. Most of the crowd raised its hands. Then he asked who thought the planet was less than a million years old. A couple of people, including Rep. Roger Koopman, R-Bozeman, raised their hands. Speaking to the Bozeman Chronicle later that day, Schweitzer was quoted as saying he didn’t need people in the Legislature “who think the Earth is 4,000 years old.”

How fortunate that the Republicans, well known as the party of diversity, are here to call Schweitzer on his blatant support for cleansing state government of all Christians. Maybe the Rs will now step forward to help defend Islam from its many assaults of these past few years; they certainly haven’t been much help protesting the shunning that Pastafarians routinely endure.

And while Karl Ohs and his Republican minions are rushing to the defense of the principle of diversity, it’s impossible not to notice that the party isn’t going so far as to defend Koopman’s Stone-Age beliefs about the planet’s age, which is estimated by scientific zealots at some 4.5 billion years. It is admittedly easier to storm and stomp about nonexistent religious intolerance than to take on the vast sum of mankind’s geological evidence, never mind your own party’s Neanderthal fringe.

However, Schweitzer’s claim that the Legislature doesn’t need people who think the Earth is 4,000 years old is obviously wrongheaded. It would make good sense to have at least a few on hand so that when legislators next take up education funding, they’ll have a real, live exhibit of why Montana desperately needs more.

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