The National Center for Science Education reports that there is a definite move afoot to introduce bills in various state legislatures with the intention of requiring the teaching of “alternative theories” to evolution. The Louisiana Science Education Act is the first in a a number of bills, embellished by The Discovery Institute, that paragon of intellectual and scientific credibility, to be introduced.
On May 21, 2008, Senate Bill 733 (PDF), the so-called Louisiana Science Education Act, was unanimously passed by the Louisiana House Education Committee. Before passage, the bill was amended slightly from the form which passed the Senate on April 29, 2008, as previously reported by NCSE. It now moves to the full House.
Other states contemplating a similar bill are Oklahoma, Texas and New Mexico.
The bill singles evolution out from other scientific theories, and states that a teacher “may use supplemental textbooks and other instructional materials to help students understand, analyze, critique, and review scientific theories in an objective manner.”
This sounds suspiciously innocuous, but in reality, it will open the classrooms up to whatever teachers want to use, and in the hands of the religious, that will be anything the Discovery Institute puts in their hands. The sponsor of the Louisiana bill has made it clear what his motives are.
Senator Ben Nevers (D-Bogalusa) insisted to the AP on May 21 that “I plainly state in this bill that no religion will be taught,” he previously told the Hammond Daily Star (April 6, 2008 ) that the bill was drafted by a group which “believe[s] that scientific data related to creationism should be discussed.” Similarly, bill supporter David Tate, a member of the Livingston Parish School Board, told the New Orleans Times-Picayune (April 18, 2008 ), “I believe that both sides — the creationism side and the evolution side — should be presented and let students decide what they believe,” adding that the bill is needed because “teachers are scared to talk about” creationism.
[On a side note, it’s always comforting when the proponents of clearly unconstitutional legislation, offered in a constitutional guise, talk openly on the record about their motivations. It provides good evidence when the case ends up in court, as it did in the Dover decision.]
Informed readers will see the similarities in previous legislation, morphing from the legislation of Arkansas that was declared unconstitutional in Epperson v. Arkansas (1968 ) ( which banned outright the teaching of evolution), through Tennessee’s “equal time’ bill struck down in Daniel v. Waters (1975) (by the 6th Circuit), then the Louisiana law (what’s with Louisiana?) requiring the teaching of the newly named “creation science” that was ultimately struck down by the US Supreme Court in Edwards v. Aguillard (1987), up through the most recent decision in Dover (2005).
The editorial writer for the Baton Rouge Advocate got it exactly right.
The bill will “provide a full-time living for dozens of lawyers in the American Civil Liberties Union. They will have a field day suing taxpayer-funded schools as groups use Nevers’ language to push Bible-based texts in the schools. That’s unconstitutional, and we can see the taxpayer paying — and paying, and paying — for this policy in the future.”
One of the admirable characteristics about America is that everyone is entitled to equal access to the courts, and to our legislators. Unfortunately, in the hands of agenda driven theocrats, our system of government gets abused. It seems that the people, the religious nut cases if you will, behind this constant, never relenting push to impose their religious fantasies on the rest of the population have figured that a combination of changing the tenor and tone of the argument, while keeping it front and center in the public consciousness, combined with the knowledge that a large portion of the rank and file who actually teach science to our children are in agreement with them, or worse, don’t care, will produce a society in which science will lose and religion will win.
The only remedy for this is eternal vigilance and good lawyers.