Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal signed into law last week a measure that would grant teachers and students the freedom to challenge and examine critically the tenets of Darwinism in the classroom.
The so called “Science Education Act,” the latest in a series of academic freedom bills that have swept across as many as six states, cruised through the state legislature with unanimous levels of approval.
Lawmakers said that the new law will help bring an end to allegations that teachers and students who share views contradicting or challenging the tenets of Darwinism in the classroom are marginalized, discriminated, or ostracized.
The law will also help to supply teachers with supplementary textbooks that will give greater freedom in the classroom to analyze and critique existing scientific theories concerning evolution.
While supporters of the measure say the recent measure is an important step in securing safe academic environments where “critical thinking skills, logical analysis, and open and objective discussion of scientific theories” are cherished, detractors say that the new law represents nothing more than a masked agenda to install religion in schools.
Americans United, which was just one among the many groups that tried to urge Gov. Jindal to veto the bill on the basis that it was a violation of the separation between church and state, blasted the new law in a series of statements.
"Louisiana has a long and unfortunate history of trying to substitute dogma for science in ... classrooms," AU executive director Rev. Barry Lynn said, according to Reuters.
“Americans United and other groups contend that ‘supplemental materials’ are likely to be anti-evolution books, DVDs and other items produced by fundamentalist Christian ministries,” the group said.
Supporters of the law, however, say that the language used in the measure is clear regarding the separation between church and state.
“The proposed Louisiana law expressly states in Section 1C 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 nonreligion,’” said Dr. John West, vice president for Public Policy and Legal Affairs at Discovery Institute, in a statement.
West, who represents the largest intelligent design think-tank in the nation, emphasized that neither his nor any other organization’s views would be favored under the new law. The measure is about promoting fairness, he said.
"Intelligent design is currently not in the Louisiana state science standards and so could not be taught. But this allows scientific criticisms of Darwin's theory to be taught," he concluded, according to Reuters.