Missouri senator wants to require using B.C. and A.D.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) -- Legislators have started a fight with Father Time -- at least with his name tag.

Worried about a push to take the religious references out of time, a state senator has filed a bill that would mandate the use of B.C. (Before Christ) and A.D. (Anno Domini or "Year of our Lord"). Many historians and textbook publishers have switched to B.C.E. (Before Common Era) and C.E. (Common Era) as a nod toward non-Christians.

And that's a problem, said Sen. John Loudon.

"There is an effort to sort of scrub our public institutions of acknowledgment of God," said Loudon, R-Chesterfield. He said it would be costly to change dating systems -- both financially and culturally.

Loudon's bill, which was also filed last year and this year has also been filed as a constitutional amendment, would make B.C. and A.D. the "official dating standard" of Missouri. It would also bar the state and public employees from using any other system in official capacities.

That would also seem to include public schools, which could set up a debate about whether textbooks could be used if they use B.C.E. and C.E.

A spokesman for the Missouri School Boards' Association said the group is uncertain how the measure would be interpreted. Brent Ghan said the requirement would have little affect if it were limited to documents created by school districts. But policing textbooks would be a different story.

"If that were the case, it could potentially be a costly item for school districts," Ghan said.

Loudon said he's not sure whether the bill would affect the textbooks school districts use but doesn't see a problem with requiring books that use B.C. and A.D.

"Publishers that want it used in Missouri should stick with current standards," he said.

Although national groups weren't sure if other states have tried to legislate how time is recorded, at least one state school board has faced controversy about how to distinguish centuries.

The Kentucky state school board in 2006, under pressure from religious groups, reversed a two-month old policy to also use B.C.E. and C.E. in schools. Education officials there said the policy was designed to prepare students taking college placement tests for the terminology.

In 2000, the Southern Baptist Convention adopted a resolution that renounced efforts to change the dating system as "anti-supernaturalism, religious pluralism and political correctness" and called on members to stick with B.C. and A.D.

Roger Oldham, vice president for convention relations for the convention's Executive Committee, said that resolution was geared toward Baptists and their churches.

"I'm not aware of any convention-wide attempt to legislate this," he said. "It was an encouragement internally for us not to lose sight of the historical."

The Missouri legislation is also supported by Missouri First, a nonprofit group that advocates for local control and teaches about Christianity's role in government. Ron Calzone, one of the group's leaders, said lawmakers need to preserve the state's heritage and traditions, which includes using B.C. and A.D.

"It's kind of like hot dogs and apple pie," Calzone said.

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Time bills are SB716 and SJR29.

On the Net:

Legislature: http://www.moga.mo.gov

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