Texas Creationism Update (11 Apr ‘09)

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NOW that what we’ve been calling the Texas Science Chainsaw Massacre has ended, and Don McLeroy, the creationist dentist serving as chairman of the Texas Board of Education (BOE), has devised a science curriculum that will virtually assure the teaching of creationism in Texas science classes, don’t imagine that the fun in Texas is over.

It may have just begun. There are four bills pending in the Texas legislature that we’ll be following until the legislative session adjourns on 01 June.

As we reported here Texas Creationism: Now a Two-Front War, creationists in the Texas legislature have opened a second front in this war (to augment their activities in the BOE) by introducing H.B. 4224 in the Texas House of Representatives. The bill is sponsored by Wayne Christian. You can track the bill’s progress with this link.

It’s typical of other anti-science, anti-evolution, pro-creationism bills modeled after the misleadingly-named Academic Freedom Act, promoted by the neo-theocrats at the Discovery Institute’s Center for Science and Culture (a/k/a the Discoveroids).

We checked the bill’s current status. It’s sitting in the House’s Public Education committee, to which it was referred on 24 March. It has to be voted out of that committee before it can be voted on by the House. There is no companion bill filed in the Senate yet, and if none appears, the House bill has nowhere to go.

There are more bills of interest. As we reported here: Texas Creationism: One Clear Voice Emerges, two bills have been introduced in the Texas Senate by Senator Rodney Ellis, from Houston. Ellis calls these bills his “club” and “stiletto.”

The “club” is SB 440: “Relating to transferring the statutorily assigned functions and activities of the State Board of Education to the Texas Education Agency.” This has been in the Education committee since 17 February. An identical bill, HB 3382, has been filed in the House, and it’s been in the Public Education committee since 18 March.

The bill would strip Don McLeroy’s Texas Board of Education of its authority over textbooks, curriculum and graduation requirements. The BOE would be left with only its narrow constitutional duties, including managing the Permanent School Fund. As you may have guessed, Senator Ellis isn’t pleased with the BOE.

The bill Ellis calls his “stiletto” is SB 513: “Relating to placing the State Board of Education under periodic review by the Sunset Advisory Commission.” Like Ellis’ other bill, this one has been in the Education committee since 17 February. There is also a companion bill in the House: HB 710. There were hearings on it in the Public Education committee. A substitute bill (which still sunsets the BOE) was reported favorably, and now it will be voted on by the House. A vote hasn’t been scheduled yet.

But that’s not all.

As we reported here: Creationism Epidemic: Is Texas Going Insane?, House member Leo Berman has introduced HB 2800: “Relating to exempting certain private nonprofit educational institutions from state regulation applicable to degree-granting institutions.” It’s been sitting in the Public Education committee since 17 March. There’s no companion bill in the Senate.

This bill would exempt institutions such as the Institute for Creation Research (ICR) from the jurisdiction of the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board. That board officially certifies the degrees offered by Texas colleges and universities; and the proposed exemption would allow ICR to grant a master’s degree in creationism.

Besides Texas (where the legislative session adjourns 01 June), other states with creationist legislation currently pending are Alabama (session adjourns 18 May), Florida (session adjourns 01 May), and Missouri (session adjourns 30 May).

Copyright © 2009. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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