By Barbara Forrest

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Kentucky House Bill 397, a clone of the 2008 Louisiana Science Education Act, is dead.

HB 397 (BR 1517) – T. Moore, J. Carney

AN ACT relating to science education and intellectual freedom.
Create a new section of KRS Chapter 158 to encourage local district teachers and administrators to foster an environment promoting objective discussion of the advantages and disadvantages of scientific theories; allow teachers to use, as permitted by the local board of education, materials in addition to state-approved texts and instructional materials for discussion of scientific theories including evolution, the origins of life, global warming, and human cloning; clarify that provisions do not promote religious doctrine or discrimination; provide that the section may be cited as the Kentucky Science Education and Intellectual Freedom Act.

Common sense has carried the day in the Bluegrass State!

The National Center for Science Education has posted an announcement of the demise of HB 397. (Download the entire bill here [Word doc]). The bill died in the Kentucky House Education Committee, to which it had been referred on February 10. The chair of that committee is Rep. Carl Rollins. We commend the Kentucky House Education Committee for letting this bill die rather than imitating the entire Louisiana legislature, Governor Bobby Jindal, and the Louisiana State Board of Elementary and Secondary Education. They are living proof that politicians can follow principle rather than the dictates of the Religious Right — even in the Bible Belt, where Kentucky, along with Louisiana, is located.

The Discovery Institute, which is the headquarters of the intelligent design creationist movement, is heavily invested in the Louisiana legislation and the BESE policies. DI creationists helped write the LSEA and provided legal advice to the Louisiana Family Forum during the process of promoting the legislation and gutting BESE’s policies for administering it. DI staffer Casey Luskin showed up in Louisiana in May 2008 when the LA House Education Committee heard testimony on the Louisiana Science Education Act (LSEA). In March of this year, he wrote a gloating entry with an amusingly ominous headline at Evolution News & Views, DI’s news “analysis” blog:

Proliferation of Academic Freedom Bills Is Darwin Lobby’s Worst Nightmare

In this piece, Luskin used KY HB 397 as an example of how the champions of “academic freedom” legislation were scaring the bejeezus out of “the intelligentsia” who were “very worried about the prospect of teachers gaining academic freedom, as a bill presently in the Kentucky legislature would allow.” According to Luskin,

The Kentucky bill contains an excellent example of language refuting assertions from critics that these bills allow the teaching of religion: ‘This section 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 nonreligion.’ The operative language of the academic freedom bills is entirely beneficial:

  • The Kentucky bill encourages teachers to ‘promote critical thinking skills, logical analysis, and open and objective discussion of the advantages and disadvantages of scientific theories being studied.’

Luskin then cites both the Ouachita Parish academic freedom policy and the LSEA as among the precedents for the proposed Kentucky legislation, asserting that “it isn’t just academic freedom legislation from the past three years that’s calling for critiques of evolution in the classroom”:

  • Ouachita Parish, Louisiana: ‘[T]he teaching of some scientific subjects, such as biological evolution, the chemical origins of life, global warming, and human cloning, can cause controversy … [T]eachers shall be permitted to help students understand, analyze, critique, and review in an objective manner the scientific strengths and weaknesses of existing scientific theories pertinent to the course being taught.’

(In November 2006, Louisiana Family Forum operative Darrell White persuaded the Ouachita Parish School Board to adopt its own “academic freedom” policy [pdf], which served as the template for SB 561 before it was revised as SB 733 and adopted as the LSEA. The Discovery Institute applauded the move.)

And finally — ta-da! — Luskin invokes the Louisiana Science Education Act:

And then of course there’s Louisiana 2008 Science Education Act, which requires that Louisiana schools shall ‘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.’

And to think that the Louisiana legislature and Bobby Jindal literally handed the Discovery Institute this bragging point. At least the Kentucky House Education Committee had better sense.

If you have any friends in Kentucky, shoot them an e-mail and congratulate them. Their House Education Committee placed the interests of the children of Kentucky above the interests of the legislators who are shilling for creationists.

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