Advocate Newspaper Knowingly Publishes False Information About Louisiana Law Regarding Teaching of Evolution

The Advocate newspaper in Baton Rouge Louisiana today published a front page story about Louisiana’s new law regarding teaching of evolution that contains a completely false statement in the lead.

The paper reported an unnamed official stated that “Louisiana is the only state in the nation that has enacted a law that could change the way evolution is taught in public schools.” Louisiana recently enacted the Louisiana Science Education Act (LSEA) which protects teachers that encourage critical thinking and objective discussion about evolution and other scientific topics.

“The reporter at the Advocate was given information before his story was published that shows this is a false statement,” said Robert Crowther, director of communications for Discovery Institute’s Center for Science & Culture. “In fact, Mississippi has had a state law similar to Louisiana’s since 2006, and many states have statewide science standards and local school district policies that either encourage or even require critical analysis of evolution.”

Discovery Institute provided Sentell with a four page document that included information on the state law enacted in Mississippi in 2006 which reads: “No local school board, school superintendent or school principal shall prohibit a public school classroom teacher from discussing and answering questions from individual students on the origin of life.” House Bill No. 214, enacted into law in 2006.

In addition to citing the two state laws, the document included information on six state’s science standards, and three school district policies-including the Ouichita Parish School District in Louisiana-that all encourage teaching both the evidence for and against Darwinian evolution.

“The reporter acknowledged receipt of the information in an e-mail and thanked us for sending it to him,” said Crowther. “There’s no doubt in my mind that he knew the lead of his story was false when he turned it in. Journalistic integrity seems to be a forgotten thing in Louisiana.”

Critics have smeared the LSEA by falsely claiming the law would allow the teaching of creationism or other religious beliefs, when doing so is in fact forbidden by the act. Section 1D of the bill clearly states that it “shall not be construed to promote any religious doctrine, promote discrimination for or against a particular set of religious beliefs, or promote discrimination for or against religion or non-religion.”

The Advocate article also tries to scare people into thinking that the law is unconstitutional and will be sued. In fact, the director of the Louisiana ACLU conceded that the bill is actually fine as written.

According to a Louisiana TV station: “ACLU Executive Director Marjorie Esman said that if the Act is utilized as written, it should be fine. …”