A measure that critics said would allow creationism and intelligent design into public school classrooms won the approval Tuesday of a House committee, which a year ago voted down the proposal.
Rep. Sally Kern, R-Oklahoma City, the author of House Bill 1551, has said her measure would allow teachers the freedom to teach without fear of losing their jobs and to teach various scientific theories.
The House of Representatives Common Education Committee, which a year ago voted 9-7 to not pass the measure, flipped its vote Tuesday and voted 9-7 to pass it. It now goes to the full House.
Kern has said HB 1551 was not intended to bring religious beliefs, such as creationism, into the classroom. The bill states it was to protect the teaching of scientific information and shall not be construed to promote any religious or nonreligious doctrine.
Victor Hutchison, Oklahomans for Excellence in Science Education president and professor emeritus of the University of Oklahoma's zoology department, said the bill's language comes from the creationist Discovery Institute in Seattle.
“They claim not to be religious-based, but they use religious organizations to help push the bill,” he said.
Louisiana is the only state to have passed a version of the bill, Hutchison said. The Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology canceled its planned convention in New Orleans and 74 Nobel laureates have written letters calling for the law's repeal, he said.
HB 1551 states that public school teachers shall not be prohibited from helping students understand, critique and review the “scientific strengths and weaknesses of existing scientific theories.”
Hutchison said the National Academy of Sciences and American Association for the Advancement of Science haven't found any legitimate scientific weaknesses to evolution, providing an opening to introduce supplementary creationist intelligent design materials into class.