The Louisiana House Education Committee unanimously agreed on Wednesday to submit a bill for review in the legislature that would grant teachers and students the freedom to challenge and examine critically the tenets of Darwinism in the classroom.
The "Science Education Act" is the latest measure in a series of "Academic Freedom" bills that have swept across Louisiana, Missouri, Alabama, and Michigan. A similar measure was also under review in Florida before stalling in the state's legislature.
Lawmakers say that the efforts to pass the bills are a response to allegations that teachers and students who share views contradicting or challenging the tenets of Darwinism in the classroom are marginalized, discriminated, or ostracized.
Although legislators emphasize that the bill would "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," detractors claim the bill is part of an agenda to install religion in schools.
"This bill isn't about improving education in Louisiana; it's about sneaking religion into the science classroom," said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United (AU) in a statement.
"If this passes, Louisiana legislators will be harming children's education, undercutting the Constitution and holding the state up to national ridicule. People will be asking whether Flintstones cartoons are going to be introduced as documentaries in Louisiana science classes," he added.
Democratic Sen. Ben Nevers, a sponsor of the bill, however, denied the allegation.
"There is no language in here submitted by some secret agent trying to teach religion in public schools," he said according to The Times Picayune.
The Discovery Institute, a Seattle-based pro-intelligent design think-tank which has monitored the bill's progress, said that the bill's opponents were wrongly trying to silence discussion on the merits of the bill's protection of freedoms.
The group pointed out that numerous chemists and biologists had testified at the bill's hearing that they were denied tenure, fired, or subject to "academic bullying" because they had submitted evidence that contradicted aspects of Darwinism.
"It was clear from the hearing that Louisiana Darwinists are growing more and more desperate," the group said in statement. "Like their dogmatic compatriots in Florida who still proudly proclaim that academic freedom is 'smelly cr**' Darwinists are making absurd claims in their desperation to keep anyone from questioning Darwinian evolution as taught in public schools."
In order for the bill to become law, the bill will have to be voted on by the Louisiana House before being confirmed by the Senate.