Baton Rouge — By a vote of 94-3, Louisiana's House of Representatives today passed an academic freedom bill that would protect teachers and school districts who wish to promote critical thinking and objective discussion about evolution and other scientific topics.
There was no vocal opposition, and the floor speech by Rep. Frank Hoffman made clear that the bill was about science, not religion.
"This bill promotes good science education by protecting the academic freedom of science teachers," said Dr. John West, Vice President for Public Policy and Legal Affairs at Discovery Institute. "Critics who claim the bill promotes religion instead of science either haven't read the bill or are putting up a smokescreen to divert attention from the censorship that has been going on."
Known as the Louisiana Science Education Act, the bill now goes to the Louisiana Senate for final concurrence. The Senate previously passed the bill by a vote of 35-0, but a minor amendment adopted by the House means that the Senate must pass the bill again.
According to the bill, upon the request of a local school district, the State Board of Elementary and Secondary Education must "allow and assist teachers, principals, and other school administrators to create and foster an environment that promotes critical thinking skills, logical analysis, and open and objective discussion of scientific theories being studied including, but not limited to, evolution, the origins of life, global warming, and human cloning."
The bill also allows school districts to permit teachers to "use supplemental textbooks and other instructional materials to help students understand, analyze, critique, and review scientific theories in an objective manner," although the state board of education could veto those materials.
The bill expressly states that it "shall not be construed to promote any religious doctrine."
The Science Education Act is similar to an academic freedom policy adopted in 2006 by the Ouachita Parish School District.
This year, six states have considered academic freedom legislation designed to protect teachers who teach both the scientific strengths and weaknesses of evolutionary theory. Many of the bills have been adapted from sample legislation developed by Discovery Institute, including a model statute posted online at www.academicfreedompetition.com.
At least nine states currently have state or local policies that protect, encourage, and sometimes even require teachers to discuss the scientific evidence for and against Darwinian evolution.