Half a dozen state legislatures have taken up anti-evolution bills this year.
In Tennessee, House Bill 368 passed the House Education Committee. That bill would permit public school teachers to discuss intelligent design and creationism in science classes.
On the Senate side, the sponsor of S.B. 893, state Sen. Bo Watson (R-Hixson), told the Tennessean, “Evolution may not be controversial in the scientific community, but may be in our greater community.”
“Questions arise in class about controversies and theory,” said Watson. “Teachers should be able to answer those without feeling they violate the curriculum standards.”
When former House Speaker Jimmy Naifeh (D-Covington) called Watson’s bill the “monkey bill,” a reference to the 1925 “Monkey Trail” in Dayton, Tenn., Watson denied it was an anti-evolution bill.
Watson said that “there are competing ideas” to evolution.
The editorial board of the Tennessean said H.B. 368 was “so distorted in fact, so misleading in its intent, and so fraught with the potential to do more harm than good to the people and the reputation of Tennessee, it must be shown for what it is.”
The editorial said, “This is just the latest attempt by politicians to replace scientific principle with religious ideology.”
Calling the bill an “embarrassment to all of Tennessee,” it said the legislation “should be sent to extinction.”
In an opposing view, Robin Zimmer, affiliated with the Center for Faith and Science International, said the House bill “offers an improvement in our approach to science education. The bill simply proposes that public teachers be permitted to allow critical analysis of scientific theories within the public classroom.”
In Texas, H.B. 2454 would provide workplace protection for college professors who advocate for intelligent design or creationism.
“We have college professors that will defend Hugo Chavez, OK?” said state Rep. Bill Zedler (R-Arlington), the bill sponsor. “You have college professors that will espouse communism despite all the evidence of its overwhelming failure. And yet they are tolerated, but someone who even dares to mention intelligent design or who questions the idea that life could begin by chance, they are kicked out, lose their tenure, all kinds of discrimination working against them. I think that flies in the face of academic freedom.”
An elder at Park Springs Bible Church, Zedler said, “You know what, we are willing to sit there and tolerate the ideas of Hugo Chavez and the ideas of communism and stuff like that, we oughta be able to tolerate somebody else that questions the idea of life beginning by chance.”
Given the “widespread pattern of discrimination,” the bill would ensure academic freedom for those with views different from evolution, said Casey Luskin, an official with The Discovery Institute, a center that advocates for intelligent design.
Another anti-evolution bill was introduced in the Florida Senate in March.
The Tampa Tribune reported that state Sen. Stephen Wise (R-Jacksonville), chairman of the Senate Education Committee, “has resurrected legislation he authored in 2009 that calls for a ‘thorough presentation and critical analysis of the scientific theory of evolution.’ Wise’s bill failed to pass in 2009.”
In 2009, Wise said, “If you’re going to teach evolution, then you’ve got to teach the other side so you can have critical thinking.”
Kentucky state Rep. Tim Moore (R-Elizabethtown) introduced H.B. 169 as related to “science education and intellectual freedom.”
If it had passed, the bill would “encourage local school district teachers and administrators to foster an environment promoting objective discussion of the advantages and disadvantages of scientific theories.”
The bill died in committee.
Three anti-evolution bills in Oklahoma failed earlier this year.
In New Mexico, H.B. 302 was introduced “to protect teachers.” The Education Committee tabled the bill.