Two attacks on the integrity of science via so-called "academic freedom" legislation have ended with the close of legislative sessions in Alabama and Missouri. Yet, this latest stealth attack by advocates for creationism/intelligent design has established some traction in Oklahoma, Louisiana, and Michigan. Recently, legislation has also surfaced in South Carolina.
In Alabama, House Bill (HB) 923, the "Academic Freedom Act," died when the state legislature adjourned 7 May 2008. This legislation would have allowed non-scientific concepts, such as creationism and intelligent design, to be taught as though they represented accepted scientific principles and would have required teachers to accept non-scientific explanations for natural phenomena in class assignments.
Similarly, in Missouri, HB 2554, an act "relating to teacher academic freedom to teach scientific evidence regarding evolution," died on 16 May 2008 when the Missouri legislative session ended. Passed by the House Committee on Elementary and Secondary Education, the legislation was full of similar and suspicious rhetoric used in the other "academic freedom" bills-including an emphasis on the critical analysis of the strengths and weaknesses of evolution. The bill was introduced by Representative Robert Wayne Cooper (R-District 155) who, in 2004, sponsored HB 911 and HB 1722, unsuccessful legislation that called for equal time for "intelligent design" in Missouri's schools.
In Oklahoma, the former "Religious Viewpoints Antidiscrimination Act" (HB 2211) was resurrected by its supporters in the form of a Senate amendment to HB 2633, an act related to the schools. The amended measure passed the House 12 May 2008 by a 70 to 28 vote and has been sent to Governor Brad Henry for his signature. AIBS and one of its member organizations, the Animal Behavior Society, wrote to the Governor expressing serious concern about the amendment and urged him to veto the bill because contains the onerous provision (http://www.aibs.org/position-statements/20080506aibswrites_let.html).
After unanimously passing the Louisiana Senate 28 April 2008, The "Louisiana Science Education Act" (SB 733), formerly known as the "Louisiana Academic Freedom Act" (SB 561), was considered by and unanimously passed the House Education Committee on 21 May 2008. As previously reported (http://www.aibs.org/public-policy-reports/20080428.html), the measure intends to create questions that do not exist around evolution and climate change. The bill's original language was rooted in the policy passed by the Ouachita Parish School Board in 2006 that protects teachers who want to "teach the controversy" about evolution.
In South Carolina, SB 1386, another so-called "academic freedom" bill aimed at undermining the teaching of evolution, was introduced 15 May 2008 in the state Senate. The bill singles out biological and chemical evolution as a controversial subject and encourages critical analyses of its strengths and weaknesses. Its lead sponsor, Senator Michael Fair (R-District 6), previously spearheaded other anti-evolution legislative efforts and led an attack on evolution in the state science standards. With the legislative session due to end 5 June, it is unlikely the bill will receive a reading. However, the Greenville News reported last week that Fair "hopes it starts a debate that will carry over next year, when he plans to re-introduce the bill."
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