Arkansas Has a Creationist Bill for 2021

Things are getting exciting out there. Our friends at the National Center for Science Education (NCSE) just posted this: Creationism bill introduced in Arkansas. It was written by Glenn Branch, their Deputy Director. Here are some excerpts, with bold font added by us for emphasis, and occasional Curmudgeonly interjections that look [like this]:

Arkansas’s House Bill 1701 (PDF), filed on March 11, 2021, if enacted, would allow — although not require — teachers in the state’s public and open-enrollment charter schools to “teach creationism as a theory of how the earth came to exist.”

That’s idiotic! Who’s responsible for the thing? NCSE says:

The bill is sponsored by Mary Bentley (R-District 73), who previously introduced House Bill 2050, which would have allowed “public schools to teach creationism and intelligent design as theories alongside the theory of evolution,” in 2017. The bill died without receiving a hearing when the legislature recessed.

We wrote about her 2017 bill — see Arkansas Creationism Bill for 2017. Mary Bentley is obviously a brilliant lady. Here’s her bio page at the legislature’s website: Representative Mary Bentley. Lovely picture! She’s also in Wikipedia.

NCSE then tells us:

Joining Bentley in sponsoring House Bill 1701, from the Senate, is Gary Stubblefield (R-District 6).

Ah, another drooling legislator. Here’s his bio page at the Arkansas Senate’s website. All they have to say about him is that he’s a farmer. And although they don’t say it, we know that he’s a flaming creationist.

This is NCSE’s final paragraph:

Creationism is not generally understood as “a theory of how the earth came to exist” [Mary Bentley’s bill will change that!], and the federal courts — including in McLean v. Arkansas (1982) — have repeatedly held that teaching creationism in the public schools is unconstitutional.

The Arkansas legislature is scheduled to adjourn on 30 April, so there’s time for something to happen. Stay tuned to this blog!

Copyright © 2021. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

16 responses to “Arkansas Has a Creationist Bill for 2021

  1. It’s not intended to pass. And if it did pass, no school or school board would be so foolish as to act on it. This is pure virtue signalling, for the benefit of constituents who consider such nonsense virtuous

  2. Paul Braterman says: “And if it did pass, no school or school board would be so foolish as to act on it.”

    I hope you’re right, but we’re talking about Arkansas. We’ll just have to wait and see.

  3. And they have hopes for a new Supreme Court

  4. Typo on my part: the bill was filed on March 11, 2021, not March 11, 2011.

  5. Got it. Thanks, Glenn!

  6. From the bill:

    “AN ACT TO ALLOW CREATIONISM AS A THEORY OF HOW THE EARTH CAME TO EXIST TO BE TAUGHT IN KINDERGARTEN THROUGH GRADE TWELVE CLASSES IN PUBLIC SCHOOLS AND OPEN-ENROLLMENT PUBLIC CHARTER SCHOOLS”

    PaulB is right, this is pure symbol politics (to use some Dunglish). Don’t misunderstand me, I’ll laugh my [bleep!] off when Arkansas teachers will start to teach creacrap. But it’s not going to happen.
    I wonder though which kind of creacrap Bentley wants to be taught. Of course she can afford to neglect that issue.

  7. Dave Luckett

    I third the motion. This is a posing opportunist mugging to a gallery of loons, knowing perfectly well that it’s never going to get out of committee – and that if the Legislature lost its collective mind and passed it, it would be a disaster. It’s possible that some loon in a classroom might take it seriously. After that, the event tree divides, and every branch ends in catastrophe.

    FrankB’s last sentence is also very true. The reason the proposer can afford to neglect the issue of what “creationism” means and what can or can’t be taught is, as he says, that this bill will never make it to the floor of the House. So the question of whether the Greek, Norse, Egyptian, Vedic, Native American, Aztec, or any one of hundreds of other creation accounts should be taught is completely moot. That the world was cooked up by the Spaghetti Monster or sneezed out by the Great Green Arkleseizure could also be canvassed. Why not?

  8. I fully agree with Dr. Braterman that the bill is pure virtue signaling, but I wouldn’t put it past the Arkansas legislature to pass it and Gov. Asa Hutchison to sign it. After all, he just signed into law a bill banning all abortions except when the mother’s life is at stake. No exceptions other than that – not even rape or incest. So the only way a woman can get an abortion in Arkansas is to threaten suicide?

  9. docbill1351

    It’s all just a waste of time. Even the Louisiana “education act” didn’t result in the rampant teaching of creationism. There were a few cases, but stomped out by local school districts. I don’t think anything went to trial. I think that teachers and districts know the skinny and they won’t fall for the bait.

  10. @retiredsciguy, OT but some may be interested: I doubt if any of Gov. Asa Hutchison’s donors will be inconvenienced by the abortion Bill, if it holds up in court. I’m old enough to remember when it was very difficult to obtain a legal abortion in the UK, unless you could convinced to doctors that the pregnancy seriously endangered your health or life. If you relied on the NHS, tough. If you had the money, it was well known that there were certain private medical practices, with very fashionable addresses, where the doctors would take suicide threats, however implausible, seriously enough to proceed.

  11. “AN ACT TO ALLOW CREATIONISM AS A THEORY OF HOW THE EARTH CAME TO EXIST TO BE TAUGHT IN KINDERGARTEN THROUGH GRADE TWELVE CLASSES IN PUBLIC SCHOOLS AND OPEN-ENROLLMENT PUBLIC CHARTER SCHOOLS”

    First, it requires a law to define creationism not even as an hypothesis regarding life’s origin, but as a fully developed theory. Then it says creationism has legal standing in public schools, whereas no other scientific theory, save perhaps for climate change, requires such legal backing. That truly isn’t science, but then these legislators don’t know beans about science.

  12. Geodesy. or surveying, has a legal status. One may say that it is illegal to teach that the Earth is round.

  13. Oops. … that the Earth is flat.

    [Voice from above:] Make up your mind!

  14. On second thought, the bill may be more than virtue-signaling. If passed, it would give legal cover for an individual creationist teacher who wished to teach the Ken Ham-approved Genesis version in a public school.

  15. @Paul Braterman –
    Very interesting that threatening suicide was actually a means to an abortion in UK. I was half-joking in my comment.

    Still, money makes a difference in the US today. A woman in a state with restrictive abortion laws can travel to a less-restrictive state – if she has the $. Not going to comment further because it’s OT and I don’t want to open that can of worms in Curmy’s blog.

  16. Dave Luckett

    retiredsciguy, AIUI, it would not give a legal cover. The Supreme Court of the US has ruled that teaching “Ken Ham approved Genesis” in the public schools is in violation of the First Amendment to the Constitution, and therefore unlawful, no matter what a State legislature might say.

    I am told – I find this difficult to comprehend, but I am assured that it is so – that there are a number of pieces of legislation that remain in the bodies of law enacted by the variious States, but are unenforceable, because they have been ruled unconstitutional. This would simply be another such.

    (In Australia, the outcome is somewhat different. If the High Court – our equivalent of the Supremes – rules that a State law violated our Constitution, that law is struck down in whole or in part as the Court directs. That is, it ceases to exist. It is expunged from the calendar.)

    If some teacher, department, school or school district were to attempt to teach “Ken Ham creationism”, then a person or persons with standing – parents or guardians of the pupils affected, most like – would bring suit in the appropriate Federal Court, alleging violation of their Constitutional right to be free of an established religion. That’s what happened at Dover, PA, and there the argument was complicated by the spurious claim that “intelligent design” was not a religious teaching. As everyone knows, the Court smacked that one into the long grass. “Ken Ham approved Genesis”, or anything remotely resembling it, would not detain a Federal judge as long as Judge Jones spent on his erudite and crushing dismantlement.