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Group speaks out against proposed 'anti-science' legislation in Oklahoma

The Oklahoma City chapter of Americans United for Separation of Church and State said bills filed this year are intended to chip away at the education of evolution and interfere with a woman's choice to have an abortion.
BY MICHAEL MCNUTT mmcnutt@opubco.com Modified: February 2, 2013 at 7:20 pm •  Published: February 3, 2013
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Damion Reinhardt, the chapter's treasurer, spoke against House Bill 1456, authored by Rep. Mike Reynolds, R-Oklahoma City. Its intent is to guarantee that public school students who express religious views at school get the same protections as students expressing secular views. It would allow students who speak at school events to give their religious viewpoints, but not a prayer.

It is similar to a measure filed last year that failed to advance in the Legislature and a bill passed in 2008 by the Legislature, but vetoed by then-Gov. Brad Henry, a Democrat.

Chas Stewart, the chapter's secretary, warned about two measures that could allow religious beliefs such as creationism in the classroom.

Senate Bill 758, by Sen. Josh Brecheen, R-Coalgate, is vague, but HB 1674, by Rep. Gus Blackwell, R-Laverne, states that the teaching of some scientific concepts can cause controversy. The listed controversial subjects include biology, chemistry, meteorology, bioethics and physics.

The measure also states that some teachers may be unsure of the expectations concerning how they should present information on subjects such as biological evolution, the chemical origins of life, global warming and human cloning.

“These bills are clearly anti-science, period,” said Victor Hutchison, founder of Oklahomans for Excellence in Science Education and professor emeritus of the University of Oklahoma's zoology department.

Another attempt will be made to pass personhood legislation, which holds that individual rights and constitutional protections begin at conception.

HB 1029, by Rep. Mike Reynolds, R-Oklahoma City, is similar to last year's measure that caused an emotional battle in the House before it failed to get a vote on the floor. Reynolds also last year backed a resolution with the same language, but the state Supreme Court unanimously ruled it was unconstitutional because it would interfere with a woman's right to an abortion.

“The goal is to eliminate a woman's right to choose an abortion,” said Mike Fuller, immediate past president of the local chapter of Americans United. “Ever since Roe v. Wade, there's been all kinds of obstacles, hurdles … to chip away at that constitutional right.”