AIBS recently wrote to members of the Rules Committee of the Oklahoma State Senate to express serious concerns with HB 2211, the Religious Viewpoints Antidiscrimination Act. If enacted, the legislation would have serious negative consequences on education, including science education, in Oklahoma.
Like legislation signed into law in Texas by Governor Perry (R) in June 2007, the so-called “academic freedom” bill now moving through the Oklahoma legislature would explicitly permit public school students to express religious viewpoints and beliefs in classroom assignments and public events where student speakers are permitted.
“HB 2211 grants permission to individuals with specific, narrow religious agendas to disrupt the teaching of evolutionary science in Oklahoma public school classrooms. This legislation would allow non-scientific concepts, such as creationism and “intelligent design,” to be taught as though they represented accepted scientific principles, which they are not. To require that teachers accept non-scientific explanations for natural phenomena is counter to quality science education. Further, it risks setting the students of Oklahoma well behind their national and international counterparts.”
HB 2211 passed the Oklahoma House of Representatives on 13 March 2008 by a 71-25 vote. It was assigned to the Senate Rules Committee, rather than the Education Committee, and must be reported out of the Committee by 2 April 2008 or it will be considered ‘dead.’
Science education advocates in Oklahoma report that the Rules Committee has received a large number of letters and calls opposing the measure. However, they remain concerned that Republican members of the committee could use a special loophole to advance the bill or that it could re-appear as an amendment to other legislation.
The AIBS letter can be viewed at: http://www.aibs.org/position-statements/
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