The Florida Senate Judiciary Committee voted 7-3 this week to submit the Evolution Academic Freedom Act, which would guarantee the freedom of teachers and students in Florida public schools who challenge theories of Darwinism, for debate in the Senate.
Lawmakers felt prompted for the need of an academic freedom bill after the Florida Board of Education voted for the first time in its history to require the teaching of evolution in schools back in February.
According to lawmakers, teachers who opposed or were critical of Darwinism felt threatened by administrators and were purposely denied class planning time and other privileges.
The new bill, however, would guarantee the freedom of both teachers and students to share their views in the classroom without fears of reprisal.
"There are a variety of ways that people in leadership, other class members and teachers and department heads and principals can intimidate teachers from presenting the full range," said Republican Sen. Ronda Storms, the bill's sponsor, according to the Palm Beach Post.
Opponents of the bill, however, argued that it was unconstitutional and nothing more than a masked agenda for the promotion of religion in schools.
"This bill is bad for education, it's bad for our efforts to bring the biotech industry to Florida and it's bad for the constitution," said Rebecca Steele, Tampa regional director of the American Civil Liberties Union, according to News Press.
Senate Republican leader Daniel Webster countered criticism of the new bill, pointing out that evolution was a "theory" with "flaws" and that it was important to guarantee basic academic freedom.
"The point is are we or are we not going to have academic freedom? This is going to go a long way in allowing flaws in whatever theory is presented to be pointed out without fear of retribution by someone over you," he explained, according to News Press.
In addition to Florida, two other states, Missouri and Louisiana, have also submitted Academic freedom legislation.