Tennessee Creationism Bill Not Signed, Not Vetoed

You know about the pending creationism bill in Tennessee. We last wrote about it here: Any Moment Now. We’ve all been waiting to learn whether Governor Bill Haslam would sign it into law or would — as many science organizations had urged — veto it.

The deadline was today, and a decision has been made. According to television station WRCB of Chattanooga, Haslam won’t sign “Monkey Bill”, will allow it to become law. Here are some excerpts, with bold font added by us:

Governor Bill Haslam says he will not sign a controversial bill regarding evolution.

Ah, but will he veto it? The story continues:

“I have reviewed the final language of HB 368/SB 893 and assessed the legislation’s impact. I have also evaluated the concerns that have been raised by the bill,” Governor Haslam said in a release Tuesday. “I do not believe that this legislation changes the scientific standards that are taught in our schools or the curriculum that is used by our teachers. However, I also don’t believe that it accomplishes anything that isn’t already acceptable in our schools.”

In other words, he says it’s a useless bill. That’s not accurate, as it provides cover for creationist teachers, and Haslam surely knows this. Here’s the last of the story:

“The bill received strong bipartisan support, passing the House and Senate by a three-to-one margin, but good legislation should bring clarity and not confusion. My concern is that this bill has not met this objective. For that reason, I will not sign the bill, but will allow it to become law without my signature,” Haslam added.

So Tennessee joins Louisiana in having an anti-evolution, anti-science “academic freedom” bill. There will be rejoicing tonight in Seattle.

Sorry, Governor Haslam. You coulda been a contender.

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

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13 responses to “Tennessee Creationism Bill Not Signed, Not Vetoed

  1. Apparently this is the first bill that Halsam has allowed to become law without his signature. If he thinks it makes him look neutral on the issue, he’s mistaken.

    He probably felt a veto would be over-ridden anyway, so why anger the base?

  2. Coward’s, er, politician’s way out. In trying to pin the subsequent problems on the legislature, I wonder why he didn’t veto it and force them to override the veto.

    On the bright side, maybe some podunk school district will lose their shorts in court and have to cancel the football program.

  3. You can help stop the same from becoming law in Oklahoma! After getting the bill killed in committee, the entire original creationst bill (HB 1551) has been filed as a floor amendment in the Senate into an unrelated bill, HB 2341. It can come up now at anytime after tomorrow (11 April). If you wish to help go to the OESE website ( http://www.oklascience.org/ ). Copy the entire list of Senate addresses into the ‘TO’ block, mention ‘oppose amendment to HB 2341’ and add just a few sentences into the body of the message. Huge numbers of messages were important in getting the bill killed earlier and numbers do count. Please help, time is short.

  4. vhutchison says: “You can help stop the same from becoming law in Oklahoma!”

    Thanks for the reminder, Victor.

  5. @Haslam:

    ““I do not believe that this legislation changes standards that are taught in our schools or the curriculum that is used by our teachers. However, I also don’t believe that it accomplishes anything that isn’t already acceptable in our schools.””

    Hmmmm … Why let it pass, then? How about to go along with his constituents? And yes, if it only reinforces what’s already in place, what’s the harm? Just ‘cause some Tennesseeans are tonight going “Yeeeha” over their moonshine?

    A better question is to ask that of its deterrents. Academia is already well protected from religious imbuement within science curricula, so why the concern? And hey, with a little luck you may just get another Dover case.

    But regarding concerns, on the latest blog HuffPost is getting > 100 posts/ hr with openings like,

    “Republicans want to go back in time and not progress. They are no match for China who I am sure has a Mega Pac to support them in elections. Republicans alone will destroy America.”

    “The American congress once tried to change the official value of pi. In the bible a circular fountain is described as 1 cubit across and 3 cubits around, so that makes pi equal to 3 ….according to ‘God’ and a few math challenged politicians.”

    “Cuckoo is not just a clock with a bird popping out, something the state of Tennessee can now demonstrate. US 37th in world standings for education, going for 40th.”

    “This is not a free-speech bill or a bill that promotes critical thinking … this is a pro-intelligent design/creationism bill masquerading as a “free speech bill” “

    “And the winner of the backwards race to the bottom of the past is … Tennessee”

    Such wisdom!But as I wrote in a previous comment, fourth down in a now ‘dead thread’, or seventh down if you click to open ‘there are more comments’:

    Barry Lynn >>> “If this new law is used to promote religion in Louisiana public schools, I can guarantee there will be legal action.”

    And there have been *NO* legal actions. Instead, LDOE (Louisiana Dept. of Education}) standards within STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) appear to be on the increase.


  6. That there have been no legal actions just to a law so far is not surprising. I am told by those who know that such facial challenges are difficult to win. What is needed for a good challenge is a person with standing, such as parents of public school children who are brave enough to stand up. Finding such brave persons in LA may be a problem, given the reaction of communities there, where ostracism is to be expected. But, there are those who will eventually bring a challenge and we will have another Dover – at least I hope so. There are organizations that will eagerly support such a court case.

  7. Curmudgeon: “In other words, he says it’s a useless bill.”

    I wonder if Todd Wood persuaded him.

  8. Vhutchison, you are more pessimistic than I am. I’m sure there are parishes in Louisiana teaching creationism, but I think (hope?) the reason we haven’t seen court cases on LSEA is because no districts have used it to change how they teach biology. I could be wrong, of course, but as evidence I cite Livingston parish. The moment they started considering doing so, the media pounced on them, and they backed off. It seems to me there is no reason to believe similar changes in other parishes would fly under the media radar.

    Now, its still a bad law. And I completely support you in your attempts to prevent a similar law in OK. We can’t relax…but we can, I think, acknowledge that the creationists have largely failed with the LSEA. Regardless of whatever top cover they want it to provide to parishes, parishes don’t seem to be using it the way creationists want them to use it.

  9. Ed:

    He probably felt a veto would be over-ridden anyway, so why anger the base?

    Tennessee only requires a simple majority vote by the legislature to override a veto. The bill passed by something like a 3-to-1 margin. So while vetoing might have sent a stronger symbolic message of disapproval, it still would’ve been a symbolic gesture with no practical impact.

    Sadly, I think this is a situation where the smart, strategic, ‘pick your battles’ decision goes against what we would’ve liked the Governor to do.

  10. Ceteris Paribus

    A bit more cynically, the Gov is playing the role of the fundamentalist parent who approves their kids ‘Promise Ceremonies’ to remain virgins till marriage, all the while knowing that after the ceremony the kids will soon be busy in the back seat re-defining what constitutes a sex act and what doesn’t.

  11. “…I also don’t believe that it accomplishes anything that isn’t already acceptable in our schools.”

    The danger is not that the bill will allow creationism to be taught in schools. It does not and it cannot. Creationism corrupts every branch of science and corrupts the brain of its teacher. If your teacher is a creationist, you are doomed anyway.

    No, the real danger is to the honest true science teacher. The bill will allow them to be harried by pupils, parents, school authorities, and the church, to teach the supposed weaknesses of biology, physics, chemistry, paleontology, astronomy, geology etc. etc. etc. Woe betides the poor teacher who cannot give a strong defence of the impossibility of evolution based on the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics according to the wisdom of the late Henry Morris II, complete with supposed quotation from Isaac Asimov.

  12. Alan (UK): “No, the real danger is to the honest true science teacher. The bill will allow them to be harried by…”

    Not to defend the bill in any way, but teachers are already quite harried – or water down evolution to avoid it.

  13. Yes, but at least the teachers had the law on their side before. Now the law is actively undermining them. Makes a bad situation worse.