Alabama Creationism Bill for 2012

Our friends at the National Center for Science Education (NCSE) have a new post about Antievolution legislation in Alabama.

We haven’t written about creationist legislation in that state since 2009: Alabama Creationism Bill: It’s Dead. That one was was introduced into the Alabama House of Representatives by David Grimes. It was “inspired” by 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).

This year’s bill was introduced into the House by Blaine Galliher. Here’s his campaign website. It informs us that: “He is currently the Director for Training of Existing Business and Industries at Gadsden State Community College.”

The bill is HB133, which is almost impossible to find at the legislature’s website. If you click on that website, then you’ll have to click on “Bills” in the margin, and then “Status” and then enter “HB133” to receive minimal information. It’s pending action in committee, and the bill is described as: “Education, local boards of education authorized to provide for released time religious instruction in public high schools as an elective course for credit.”

Aha! From that screen, if you first click on the HB133 button, then you can click on “View” at the top of the window. That gives you a little popup window that has the bill’s text. Here it is, with bold font added by us:

SYNOPSIS: Existing law relating to courses of study in public schools specifies that it is the intent of the Legislature that, in addition to required courses, elective courses including wellness education be available to students as determined by the local board of education. This bill would authorize local boards of education to include released time religious instruction as an elective course for high school students.

AN ACT

Relating to courses of study in public schools; to provide legislative intent; and to authorize local boards of education to include released time religious instruction as an elective course for purposes of satisfying certain curriculum requirements for high school students.

BE IT ENACTED BY THE LEGISLATURE OF ALABAMA:

Section 1. This act shall be known and may be cited as the Alabama Released Time Credit Act.

Section 2. The Legislature finds and declares all of the following:

(1) That the free exercise of religion is an inherent, fundamental, and inalienable right secured by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution.

(2) That the free exercise of religion is important to the intellectual, moral, civic, and ethical development of students in Alabama, and that any such exercise must be conducted in a constitutionally appropriate manner.

(3) That the United States Supreme Court, in its decision, Zorach v. Clauson, 343 U.S. 306 (1952), upheld the constitutionality of released time programs for religious instruction during the school day if the programs take place away from school grounds, school officials do not promote attendance at religious classes, and solicitation of students to attend is not done at the expense of public schools.

(4) That the United States Constitution and state law allow local school districts to offer religious released time education for the benefit of public school students.

(5) That the purpose of this act is to incorporate a constitutionally acceptable method of allowing school districts to award public high school students in the state elective credit for classes in religious instruction taken during the school day in released time programs, because the absence of an ability to award such credits has essentially eliminated the ability of a school district to accommodate the desires of parents and students to participate in released time programs.

Section 3. (a) Each local board of education in the state may adopt a policy that authorizes a high school student to be excused from school to attend a class in religious instruction conducted by a private entity if all of the following are satisfied:

(1) The parent or guardian of the student gives written consent.
(2) The sponsoring entity maintains attendance records and makes them available to the public school the student attends.
(3) Transportation to and from the place of instruction, including transportation for any student with disabilities, is the complete responsibility of the sponsoring entity, parent, or guardian.
(4) The sponsoring entity makes provisions for and assumes liability for the student who is excused.
(5) No public funds are expended and no public school personnel are involved in providing the religious instruction

(b) A student who participates in a released time religious instruction may earn elective course credit for participation as determined by the local board of education. The credit awarded may not exceed one credit unit. The local board of education may adopt minimum standards for any program pursuant to this act including minimum standards for the curriculum and participation necessary to qualify for credit.

(c) It is the responsibility of a participating student to make up any missed schoolwork.

(d) No student may be released from a required core curriculum class to attend a religious instruction class.

(e) While in attendance in a released time religious instruction class pursuant to this section, a student is not considered to be absent from school.

Section 4. This act shall become effective immediately following its passage and approval by the Governor, or its otherwise becoming law.

There’s nothing specifically about creationism in the bill, but NCSE says:

HB 133 seems to go further [than case law allows], however, by providing, “A student who participates in a released time religious instruction may earn elective course credit for participation as determined by the local board of education. … The local board of education may adopt minimum standards for the curriculum and participation necessary to qualify for credit.” The provision of elective course credit is in fact identified as the purpose of the bill, which includes as a legislative finding that “the absence of an ability to award such credits has essentially eliminated the ability of a school district to accommodate the desires of parents and students to participate in released time programs.”

Ah, school credit! NCSE also says, with bold font added for emphasis:

Discussing the bill with WAFF in Huntsville, Alabama (February 5, 2012), Galliher was “pretty clear on where he stands,” telling the station, “They teach evolution in the textbooks, but they don’t teach a creation theory,” and “Creation has just as much right to be taught in the school system as evolution does and I think this is simply providing the vehicle to do that.”

Then they add this:

There are already signs that the passage of HB 133 would encourage the teaching of creationism. The Gadsen Times (November 19, 2011) reported that a local religious group in Galliher’s district was eager to participate in such a released time program, planning to offer four classes per day, five days per week. “The primary thrust of the school,” explained a spokesperson, “is to inform young people there is [a] theory of creation besides evolution, and it’s strictly based on Genesis 1 through 12.”

What can we say? These classes are voluntary and they don’t involve any expenditure of state funds, even for transportation — at least until next year when taxpayer-funded vouchers will probably be proposed. Nor, at least for now, do these classes involve state personnel. Further, whatever the kiddies are exposed to in such classes, it isn’t part of the science curriculum. This is like going to Sunday school on public school time and getting credit for it. It’s goofy, and we doubt that colleges will be impressed with this on a kid’s transcript, but it’s the least objectionable creationism bill we’ve seen yet. It’s still objectionable, however.

Alabama’s legislative session began on 07 February and is scheduled to end “mid May” (whatever that means). So there you are. Now we have another state to watch. Isn’t creationism fun?

Copyright © 2012. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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10 responses to “Alabama Creationism Bill for 2012

  1. This is like getting credit for attending Sunday School only they’ll call it Monday School.

    I’ve always said that what Alabama needs more than anything is more morons.

  2. Then the kids get a credit for religious ed, as opposed to a credit for biology ed. BFD.

  3. Ceteris Paribus

    SC said: “It’s goofy, and we doubt that colleges will be impressed with this on a kid’s transcript, …”

    Depends on the institution. Bob Jones University or Liberty University, sure. But if the kid can play a sport, then a HS credit is a HS credit. There isn’t much chance that a high school student is going to get a failing grade in creationism.

  4. Hmm. Public high school credit for religious instruction? I have a hard time understanding how this could be constitutional. For the credit to be valid, it seems that the public school would need to set some parameters on the religious instruction, thus dictating to the church what its religious teachings must be.

    This will just lessen the value of an Alabama high school diploma.

  5. “RetiredSciGuy says: “For the credit to be valid, it seems that the public school would need to set some parameters on the religious instruction…”
    This is a good point. If the school sets no parameters, but accepts the credit solely on the “Monday school’s” say-so, it’s allowing religion into school. If it sets parameters, that can be seen as an implicit endorsement of the subject; not to mention, as RSG says, it gets government into religion. Either way, it’s as Stephen Colbert said (in another connection): this doesn’t cross the line of church-state separation, it erases it. And that, I think, is its stealthy purpose. It’s one of those proposals that sounds reasonable to reasonable people, on superficial examination; and, once accepted, opens the door to future encroachment by religion into government on the grounds of “well, you accepted THIS!” It’s dangerous as precedent, if not in and of itself.

  6. As long as any religion offers an offsite “Monday school” without interference from the district, then there’s no constitutional issue. If there’s interference, then it must be religiously neutral, which is difficult to acheive in practice. So if the Wiccans have a Monday school offering, the school must accept it, no questions asked.

  7. …the free exercise of religion is important to the intellectual, moral, civic, and ethical development of students in Alabama…

    Yeah, right.

    Even if it were, students have abundant opportunity freely exercise their religion through their churches, of which there is no shortage in Alabama. Why waste school hours on this? If it’s considered important to have a “released time” program for elective credit, then encourage the kids to attend cooking classes, or take karate lessons, or acquire some other worthwhile skill.

  8. Rubble, that’s a fair point also, but…you have to remember that these are people who are either don’t see the implication you point out, or, if they do, think the realistic possibility of it so low that they discount it in their sheer singleminded pursuit of their goal to get religion, in any guise and by any pretext, into school. In either case, singleminded equals shortsighted, and consequences are inconsequential compared to the goal.

  9. Hilarious.

    “Creation has just as much right to be taught in the school system as evolution does and I think this is simply providing the vehicle to do that.”

    They literally can’t keep their mouths shut. “Wink wink nudge nudge” is too hard for them.

  10. Ceteris Paribus, ummm, I think I would fail the creationism class. I would have been one of those in the back of the room, saying “are you kidding me? You believe this stuff is actually scientifically true?” I got in trouble in 8th grade Catholic school when I told the nun I did not buy a particular piece of Catholic orthodoxy. Boy was my mom happy to see the principal once again.