Louisiana's Senate Education Committee ruled Wednesday to reject a repeal which would end the state's highly-debated Louisiana Science Education Act, a 2008 law which allows teachers the right to generate free discussion regarding controversial issues such as evolution and creationism in the classroom.
Three out of five members of the Senate Education Committee voted Wednesday to reject Sen. Karen Carter Peterson's (D-New Orleans) proposed repeal of the LSEA.
In what was reportedly hours of testimony regarding the LSEA, opponents of the repeal argued that the LSEA gives students the opportunity to critically question the teaching evolution and other scientific theories in a comfortable setting.
Sen. Elbert Guillory (D-Opelousas), who voted against the repeal along with Sen. Mike Walsworth (R-Ouachita Parish) and Sen. Mack "Bodi" White (R-Denham Springs), said he was hesitant to support the repeal because he believes the LSEA generates critical thinking on varying religious and scientific beliefs.
Guillory reportedly testified that he feared the LSEA repeal would "lock the door on being able to view ideas from many places, concepts from many cultures," giving the example of his personal experience with a spiritual healer.
"Yet if I closed my mind when I saw this man – in the dust, throwing some bones on the ground, semi-clothed – if I had closed him off and just said, 'That's not science. I'm not going to see this doctor,' I would have shut off a very good experience for myself," Guillory said, as reported by The Times-Picayune.
Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal has also openly supported the LSEA, telling NBC last month that he believes Louisiana's children should be given "the tools so they can make up their own mind, not only in science, but as they learn about other controversial issues, such as global warming or climate change."
"What're we afraid of?" Jindal questioned when asked by NBC's Hoda Kotb if he believes public schools should teach creationism.
"Bottom line, at the end of the day, we want our kids to be exposed to the best facts. Let's teach them about the big bang theory, let's teach them about evolution ... I've got no problem if a school board, a local school board, says we want to teach our kids about creationism, that people, some people, have these beliefs as well, let's teach them about intelligent design," Jindal told NBC.
According to The Associated Press, nearly 70 Nobel Prize-winning scientists have urged the state to repeal the LSEA, arguing that it allows public school teachers to teach creationism to their students in lieu of science.
"This law is about going back into the Dark Ages, not moving forward into the 21st Century," Zack Kopplin, a student of Rice University who became an outspoken opponent of the LSEA when he was just 14 years old, said during Wednesday's hearing, according to AP.
"Louisiana students deserve to be taught sound science and that means the theory of evolution, not creationism," Kopplin, who spearheaded the movement to have the LSEA repealed, added.
According to the text of the LSEA law, the purpose is to "create and foster an environment within public elementary and secondary schools 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."
The act allows teachers to use "supplemental textbooks and other instructional materials to help students understand, analyze, critique, and review scientific theories in an objective manner."
Teachers may also supplement controversial topics with additional texts relating to creationism or Intelligent Design, but the act points out that it does not "promote any religious doctrine, promote discrimination for or against a particular set of religious beliefs, or promote discrimination for or against religion or nonreligion."
Those opposing the repeal on Wednesday also argued that no complaints have been filed citing creationism being taught in the state's public schools.
Those who supported the repeal of the LSEA include Sen. Dan Claitor (R-Baton Rouge) and Sen. Eric LaFleur (D-Ville Platte). Sen. Conrad Appel (R-Metairie) did not vote.