FEDERAL WAY, Wash. - Frosty Hardison is neither impressed nor surprised that
An Inconvenient Truth
, the global-warming movie narrated by former Vice President Al Gore, received an Oscar nomination for best documentary.
"Liberal left is all over Hollywood," he grumbled a few hours after the nomination was announced.
Hardison, a parent of seven in the southern suburbs of Seattle, roiled the global-warming waters this month when he learned that one of his daughters would be watching An Inconvenient Truth in her seventh-grade science class.
"No, you will not teach or show that propagandist Al Gore video to my child, blaming our nation - the greatest nation ever to exist on this planet - for global warming," Hardison wrote in an e-mail to the Federal Way school board. The 43-year-old computer consultant is an evangelical Christian who says he believes that a warming planet is "one of the signs" of Jesus Christ's imminent return for Judgment Day.
His e-mail and complaints from a few other parents stopped the film from being shown to Hardison's daughter.
The science teacher, Kay Walls, said her principal had told her after Hardison's e-mail that she would receive a disciplinary letter for not following school board rules that require written permission to present "controversial" materials in class.
The e-mail also pressured the school board to ban screenings of the film for the district's 22,500 students.
The ban, which the board says was merely a "moratorium," was lifted last week, subject to rigorous conditions. Still, the action has appalled the film's producers and triggered a ferocious national backlash.
Members of the school board say they have been bombarded by thousands of e-mails and phone calls, many hurtful and obscene, accusing them of scientific ignorance, pandering to religion, and imposing prior restraint on free speech.
It has been a terrible ordeal, member David Larson said during a long, emotional speech at the board meeting.
"I am here to foster healing in our community," he said, noting with sadness that "civility and honest discourse are dying in our country."
What the board had intended to do, Larson and members insisted, was not to stop schools from teaching the science of global warming, but merely to follow long-standing board rules that require students to be exposed to "other perspectives" when they view a film like An Inconvenient Truth.
"We do not need to lose balance in order to save the Earth," Larson said.
Exactly what "balance" might amount to, however, was not spelled out.
The National Academy of Sciences and nearly all of the world's leading climate experts have agreed that there is conclusive evidence that human activity is causing the Earth to warm and that there is an urgent need to reduce the amount of carbon released into the air.
Several riled-up Federal Way residents argued at the board meeting that An Inconvenient Truth was scientifically true and that saying otherwise was "deliberate obfuscation."
These residents derisively compared the search for "balance" in the global-warming issue to decades of phony claims by cigarette companies about the lack of "proof" that smoking harms health.
Before the meeting started, several residents buttonholed Larson and asked whether there should be a "balanced" presentation of the Nazi Holocaust because there are many who deny that it occurred.
"The Holocaust happened," Larson said. "We have evidence and photos. The difference between the Holocaust and the global warming is we don't have photos of what will happen 50 years from now."
Sitting in on this conversation was Walls, the seventh-grade science teacher.
"We do have photos of snow melting off Kilimanjaro," Walls said, hopefully.
In the end, the board opted for an abundance of balance. That means that An Inconvenient Truth may be shown only with the written permission of a principal - and only when it is balanced by alternative views approved by a principal and the superintendent of schools.
Hardison was pleased.
"I am happy they are giving the kids as much information as possible," he said.
Walls said she was struggling to find authoritative articles to counter the information in the Gore documentary.
"The only thing I have found so far is an article in Newsweek called 'The Cooling World,' " Walls said.