Louisiana's Education Committee Votes to Keep State's Creationism Act

Members of Louisiana's House Education Committee voted on Wednesday to keep the Balanced Treatment for Creation-Science and Evolution-Science Act, a 1981 law which allows teachers to give equal weight to the teachings of creationism and evolutionary science in the classroom.

The law, which the Supreme Court deemed unconstitutional in 1987 in the case Edwards v. Aguillard, ruling that it violates First Amendment rights, has remained on state statutes since its drafting in 1981.

The text of the law states that "balanced treatment" of creationism and evolutionary theory entails "providing whatever information and instruction in both creation and evolution models the classroom teacher determines is necessary and appropriate to provide insight into both theories in view of the textbooks and other instructional materials available for use in his classroom."

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On Wednesday, the House Education Committee voted against an amendment, proposed by Dan Claitor (R-District 16), to repeal the act.

The amendment served as a "rider" to Senate bill 205, which addressed language immersion programs in the state's public schools, and would have deleted the Balanced Treatment for Creation-Science and Evolution-Science Act from the state statute.

Ben Nevers (D-District 12), who sponsored the state's Louisiana Science Education Act in 2008, reportedly said that it's important to keep the Balanced Treatment for Creation-Science and Evolution-Science Act in the books, should Edwards v. Aguillard ever be reversed.

Those wishing to see the law repealed argue, however, that there is no reason to have an unconstitutional law in the books.

Earlier in May, Louisiana's Senate Committee on Education voted to reject a repeal of the Louisiana Education Act, another controversial law in the state which allows for an "open and objective" discussion relating to scientific theories such as the origins of life and global warming.

Teachers may supplement controversial teachings with texts relating to creationism or Intelligent Design, although the text of the act clearly notes that the state 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 who voted against the repeal argued that the LSEA is beneficial because it gives students critical thinking skills regarding evolution and creationism.

Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal has previously said that he sees no problem with the LSEA, as he believes it gives students the tools to make up their own mind in regards to controversial science teachings relating to evolution and such.

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