Creationism: Coming to a Science Classroom Near You?
In 1987, the United States Supreme Court struck down a Louisiana law prohibiting the teaching of evolution unless it was accompanied by the teaching of creationism. The Court stated in its opinion in Edwards v. Aguillard that the intent of the law was to promote the teachings of a religious denomination in a public school science classroom, a clear violation of the principle of the separation of church and state. This decision is straightforward—creationism cannot be taught in a public school science classroom. Time and again, lower courts have applied this ruling and invalidated various attempts to out rightly or indirectly teach creationism in public schools, yet legislators and creationism advocates alike persist in these attempts. In January 2012 alone, no less than six bills attempting to teach creationism in science classrooms have been introduced around the country. New Hampshire and Missouri have two bills apiece and Indiana and Oklahoma are each considering one.
Early this week the Indiana State Senate passed S.B.89, which was introduced and sponsored by Indiana State Sen. Dennis Kruse, by a 28-22 margin. This bill, which would take effect on July 1, 2012, if approved by the State House of Representatives and signed into law by Gov. Mitch Daniels, seeks to allow public schools to teach creationism in science classrooms. Sen. Kruse has introduced legislation to teach creationism before, but this time he has something else besides passion in his favor: He is the chair of the Senate Education Committee, the committee that had to approve this legislation before it came up for a vote.
Before the vote in the Senate was taken, State Sen. Vi Simpson proposed an amendment aimed at solving the bill’s nagging constitutionality problem. The amendment, which was successfully included in the passage of this bill in the Senate, allows the teaching of creationism so long as the teachings of multiple religions, including but not limited to Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism and Scientology, are presented. This amendment hardly fixes the blatant constitutionality problems S.B.89 faces. In fact, it only exacerbates the unconstitutionality. Religion should never be taught in science classrooms, and requiring multiple religious stances on creation to be taught in those classrooms doesn’t make it any better. Such moves are clear violations of the Establishment Clause, just as they were in Edwards and subsequent cases.
Should this legislation, or any of the other proposed creationism measures for that matter, become law, a court challenge is all but guaranteed. Check back with RACBlog as we continue to monitor misguided and unconstitutional attempts by state legislators to mandate the teaching of religious doctrine in public school science classrooms.