BATON ROUGE – Louisiana’s House Education Committee on Wednesday rejected a repeal to a 1981 law which allows both creation science and evolutionary theory to be taught in public schools.
The proposed repeal was sponsored by Republican Dan Claitor, and—had it been passed—would have deleted Louisiana’s “Balanced Treatment for Creation-Science and Evolution-Science Act.” According to the 1981 law, “balanced treatment” equates to allowing school teachers to “provide information and instruction in both creation and evolution models” that they deem “necessary and appropriate.”
Six years after the 1981 law was signed, a ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court (Edwards v. Aguillard) declared the act unconstitutional, because it was designed “to advance the religious viewpoint that a supernatural being created humankind,” thus violating the First Amendment. However, the Balanced Treatment Act has remained on the state books since then as an unenforceable law.
Even though it is unenforceable, some are frustrated that the unconstitutional act is still in place. Josh Rosenau of the National Center for Science Education argued that “[t]here’s no good reason to keep an unconstitutional law on the books,” according to Raw Story. Rosenau went on to claim that supporters of the Balanced Treatment Act are concealing their full motives.
“Today’s efforts may be less overtly religious, but only because that’s the strategy necessary to evade court scrutiny,” he asserted. “If today’s advocates of intelligent design and ‘critical analysis of evolution’ had their druthers, they’d be passing ’80s-style equal time laws, or the sorts of outright bans on teaching evolution which brought us 1925’s Scopes trial.”
Rosenau believes the unsuccessfulness of the repeal was due to a “radical, right-wing, evangelical Protestant agenda” that intimidates politicians into promoting an “anti-evolution agenda.”
However, many Louisianan lawmakers think the Balanced Treatment Act should be retained, in case the Supreme Court’s decision is someday overturned. One such lawmaker is Democrat Ben Nevers, who sponsored the Louisiana Science Education Act—a similarly controversial bill that received widespread support from lawmakers and was passed in 2008.
Even though the 2008 act was not as overt in nature as the 1981 Balanced Treatment Act, some saw it as a subtle promotion of creation science in the Louisiana education system, since one of the bill’s purposes was to “promote students’ critical thinking skills and open discussion of scientific theories.”
Another primary aim of the act, as stated in the bill’s text, was to “create and foster an environment within public elementary and secondary schools that promotes critical thinking skills, logical analysis, and open and objective discussion of scientific theories being studied including, but not limited to, evolution, the origins of life, global warming, and human cloning.”
Furthermore, the conclusion of the act carefully clarifies that the bill “shall not be construed to promote any religious doctrine, promote discrimination for or against a particular set of religious beliefs, or promote discrimination for or against religion or nonreligion.”
Christine Dao with the Institute for Creation Research suggests that evolutionists see Louisiana’s balanced education policies as a challenge to their agenda.
“There is no doubt that problems exist in Darwin’s evolutionary and natural selection theories,” she wrote. “But rather than inform students of these truths, evolutionists would prefer to only have their brand of science presented to the impressionable minds of the next generation, with no questions asked.”