Arguments over the teaching of creationism as science are headed for the Legislature this session.
Sen. Ben Nevers, D-Bogalusa, has introduced the Louisiana Academic Freedom Act in the form of Senate Bill 561. The bill is now in the Senate's education committee, which Nevers chairs.
The Louisiana Family Forum suggested the bill, Nevers said.
“They believe that scientific data related to creationism should be discussed when dealing with Darwin's theory. This would allow the discussion of scientific facts,” Nevers said. “I feel the students should know there are weaknesses and strengths in both scientific arguments.”
Opponents, however, maintain that creationism is religion, not science.
“Louisiana is being used as a pawn in the Louisiana Family Forum’s scheme to force a narrow set of religious views on public schools and, indeed, on the entire state,” said Barbara Forrest, Ph.D., a reseacher, author and professor of philosophy at Southeastern Louisiana University.
According to the Senate's digest, Nevers' bill prohibits the state or any school official from hindering a public school teacher “from helping students understand, analyze, critique, and review, in an objective manner, the scientific strengths and weaknesses of existing scientific theories” such as evolution, the chemical origins of life, global warming and human cloning. It also prohibits officials from censoring materials on the topics.
The proposed laws “only protects the teaching of scientific information, and this section shall not be construed to promote any religious doctrine, promote discrimination for or against any particular set of religious beliefs or promote discrimination for or against religion or non-religion,” the digest states.
If SB561 passes, it would take effect next school year.
“Teaching creationism in any form violates the U. S. Constitution, as determined in a long series of federal court rulings spanning the last 40 years,” Forrest writes. “Creationists have never
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won a single case in federal court. There are now 10 federal court rulings against creationism. Two of those rulings, one of which is the 1987 U. S. Supreme Court ruling, Edwards v. Aguillard, pertained to cases that originated in Louisiana.”
The most recent federal court ruling, Kitzmiller et al. v. Dover Area School District (2005), in the Middle District of Pennsylvania, was a defeat for intelligent design creationists and cost taxpayers there $1,000,000 in legal expenses, Forrest said.
“If the citizens and public officials of Louisiana are serious about improving both the state’s image and public schools, we cannot afford to waste valuable time and resources on legislation like SB 561,” Forrest said. “Such battles consume the energies and attention of productive citizens who must take time from their jobs and personal affairs to counteract creationist attacks on their school systems.”