Yesterday we told you that besides Josh Brecheen’s 2013 Creationism Bill there was another creationism bill pre-filed in Olkahoma. We learned about it from our clandestine operative in Oklahoma — code name “OO” — and also from the National Center for Science Education (NCSE) in this post: Two antiscience bills in Oklahoma.
Oklahoma’s second adventure in creationist legislation this year is House Bill 1674. That link lets you read the thing in Microsoft Word. We’ll give you only the operative provisions. After Section 1 specifies that it will be added to an existing statute, it says, with our bold font added for emphasis:
This act shall be known and may be cited as the “Scientific Education and Academic Freedom Act”.
A. The Oklahoma Legislature finds that an important purpose of science education is to inform students about scientific evidence and to help students develop critical thinking skills they need in order to become intelligent, productive, and scientifically informed citizens. The Legislature further finds that the teaching of some scientific concepts including but not limited to premises in the areas of biology, chemistry, meteorology, bioethics and physics can cause controversy, and that some teachers may be unsure of the expectations concerning how they should present information on some subjects such as, but not limited to, biological evolution, the chemical origins of life, global warming, and human cloning.
B. The State Board of Education, district boards of education, district superintendents and administrators, and public school principals and administrators shall endeavor to create an environment within public elementary and secondary schools that encourages students to explore scientific questions, learn about scientific evidence, develop critical thinking skills, and respond appropriately and respectfully to differences of opinion about controversial issues. Educational authorities in this state shall also endeavor to assist teachers to find more effective ways to present the science curriculum where it addresses scientific controversies. Toward this end, teachers shall be permitted to help students understand, analyze, critique, and review in an objective manner the scientific strengths and scientific weaknesses of existing scientific theories pertinent to the course being taught.
C. The State Board of Education, a district board of education, district superintendent or administrator, or public school principal or administrator shall not prohibit any teacher in a school district in this state from helping students understand, analyze, critique, and review in an objective manner the scientific strengths and scientific weaknesses of existing scientific theories pertinent to the course being taught.
D. Students may be evaluated based upon their understanding of course materials, but no student in any public school or institution shall be penalized in any way because the student may subscribe to a particular position on scientific theories. Nothing in this subsection shall be construed to exempt students from learning, understanding and being tested on curriculum as prescribed by state and local education standards.
E. The provisions of the Scientific Education and Academic Freedom Act shall only protect the teaching of scientific information, and shall not be construed to promote any religious or nonreligious doctrine, promote discrimination for or against a particular set of religious beliefs or nonbeliefs, or promote discrimination for or against religion or nonreligion. The intent of the provisions of this act is to create an environment in which both the teacher and students can openly and objectively discuss the facts and observations of science, and the assumptions that underlie their interpretation.
This is strikingly similar, code-words and all, to Josh Brecheen’s bill, and it’s also similar to bills introduced this year in Missouri, and in Colorado, and in Montana.
The similarity is no coincidence. They’re all based on the anti-science, anti-evolution, pro-creationism Academic Freedom Act promoted by the Discoveroids — described in the Cast of Characters section of our Intro page. We’ve already critiqued their model bill here: Curmudgeon’s Guide to “Academic Freedom” Laws. In that same post we also recommend countermeasures.
To track the bill’s progress you can use this link: Tracking Reports Website, but once there you need to enter HB1674 in the search box and then hit the “Retrieve” button. You’ll learn that nothing has happened yet, which is not surprising because this is a pre-filed bill.
The genius responsible for this bill is Gus Blackwell. His page at the legislature’s website says he got his undergraduate degree from Oklahoma Baptist University, a Master of Divinity degree from Southwestern Baptist Theology Seminary, a BBA degree from Oklahoma Panhandle State University, and an MBA degree from Southwestern Oklahoma State University. He spent 20 years with the Oklahoma Baptist General Convention, and he is Campus Minister with Baptist Collegiate Ministries. As a preacher, Blackwell is highly qualified to promote creationist legislation drafted by the Discoveroids.
As you know, besides this bill and Brecheen’s, there’s also a proposed Creationism Constitutional Amendment. So it’s going to be a fun year in Oklahoma. Their legislative session begins on 04 February, and it’s scheduled to adjourn on 31 May.
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