Only religion can make a third-grader seem smarter than some politicians

Olivia McConnellOlivia McConnell has a passion for science. So much so that she spends her school recess looking for shark’s teeth. Her passion led her to the discovery that South Carolina does not have a state fossil. And she knew from her reading that the first fossil found in North America, from the woolly mammoth, was discovered in South Carolina. Little Olivia decided that South Carolina deserved credit for that and fired off a letter to S.C. Gov. Nikki Haley (and other state lawmakers).

Olivia made a compelling case for why South Carolina should be recognized. “I wanted it to be the state fossil because I didn’t want that history to be lost, and our state to not get credit for it,” Olivia says. “If something’s wrong I’ve got to help out. It’s just the right thing to do. That’s what I’m all about.”

She has the attention of her senator, Kevin Johnson, who thought it would “fly through the House and Senate.” But she also got the attention of creationist South Carolina Republicans. Two Republican state senators, Sen. Kevin Bryant and Sen. Mike Fair, started adding whole passages from the book of Genesis to the bill. Including this little ditty:

The Columbian Mammoth, which was created on the Sixth Day with the other beasts of the field, is designated as the official State Fossil of South Carolina and must be officially referred to as the ‘Columbian Mammoth’, which was created on the Sixth Day with the other beasts of the field.” (H 4482, Session 120)

“I think it’s very important that we acknowledge the Creator when we’re acknowledging some of his wonderful creations. I don’t have a problem acknowledging the Wooly Mammoth as a state fossil,” Bryant said.

Sen. Mike Fair, felt the Creator of the mammoth should be recognized as well. He admits he didn’t know who he was dealing with and said, “[t]he fact that an 8-year-old was doing this was remarkable and something we should celebrate.” Olivia and her family are also deeply religious. However, they don’t believe religion should be attached to a bill about fossils. Pretty smart little girl.

Bryant and Fair’s proposed amendments have stalled the bill, freezing young Olivia McConnell’s efforts, but Olivia will not budge – ever. She says she’ll “keep going until they pass the bill. Maybe it might not be until I’m 20, 30 or 40. If it doesn’t pass this year, I’m going to be back next year.”

In the Olivia McConnell vs. Creationist showdown, my money is on Olivia. You go girl!




  1. Updating Senator Mike Fair’s continuing attempt to return South Carolina to an evolutionary stage prior to the development of the cerebral cortex:

    While this has nothing to do with Olivia McConnell’s “Big Win” in the General Assembly—she managed to get the Columbian Mammoth named the official State Fossil without any accompanying religious nonsense—it bears mentioning that Senator Fair, who was one of the major actors in the fossil/creationism drama, was successful in his attempt to kill a bill that would have mandated that the information imparted to South Carolina high-schoolers in their sex education classes be accurate.

    You read that right.

    Senator Fair used parliamentary machinery to insure that no vote would be taken on a bill that mandated the use of “accurate information” in sex education classes offered in South Carolina’s public schools.

    We rank 8th in the nation per adolescents who contract HIV through sexual interaction. Our per capita percentage of adolescent pregnancies and single mothers who are adolescents is one of the country’s highest. We rank among the worst three states in pre-natal care for pregnant women, mortality during pregnancy, birth-related deaths and infant mortality. And we have a senator who doesn’t want to pass a bill that simply mandates that we be honest with teenagers about sex and sexuality; i.e., that we don’t lie to them anymore.

    That’s Mike Fair. That’s the Republican Party in the South. Heck, for all I know, that’s the Republican Party almost everywhere.

  2. Well-written.

    You have no idea how many of us here in South Carolina rolled our eyes when we heard that Mike Fair was at it again, not to mention Kevin Bryant. However, discussion of Fair’s narrow views—and, having known Mike since he was a QB here at the university, I think I can say with some degree of certainty that his approach was actually religious rather than political in orientation, though that does nothing to justify it or make it less laughable—and Bryant’s calculated political manipulations are for another time.

    It is enough for the moment to report that you put your money on a feisty little filly! Olivia stood her ground and got her wish that the Columbian Mammoth be named the State Fossil and be named such without any accompanying religious information. For once, the General Assembly heard people laughing from every corner of the state and did the right thing.

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