In recent years, most state-level legislative attacks on evolution have taken the form of "academic freedom" bills, which permit — but do not require — teachers and students to introduce creationist material into science classes. Because these bills are permissive rather than prescriptive, they may have a better chance of surviving judicial scrutiny than has past antievolution legislation.
There are two main strains of "academic freedom" bills. The first mandates that teachers be able to discuss "the full range of scientific views regarding biological and chemical evolution," and offers students "protection for subscribing to a particular position on views regarding biological or chemical evolution." Bills of this strain typically also include unsubstantiated claims of widespread persecution of teachers and students who criticize evolution. The Discovery Institute’s "Model Academic Freedom Statute on Evolution" is of this form.
The second strain does not purport to be concerned with student rights, and cites the need to help students develop "critical thinking skills" on "controversial issues." To this end, it permits teachers to discuss "the scientific strengths and scientific weaknesses of existing scientific theories." The listed "theories" often cover several topics of concern to the religious right: primarily evolution and abiogenesis, but also global warming, human cloning and stem cell research. One example of this strain is 2008’s Louisiana Science Education Act.
From 2004 to spring 2011, at least forty such bills have been filed in 13 states. However, only the Louisiana Science Education Act has so far been signed into law.
This section of our website provides information on the texts, history and current legislative status of "academic freedom" bills.
|Date of Introduction||State||Bill Number||Current Status|
|February 12, 2004||Alabama||HB391||Dead|
|February 17, 2004||Alabama||SB336||Dead|
|February 8, 2005||Alabama||HB352||Dead|
|February 8, 2005||Alabama||SB240||Dead|
|April 5, 2005||Alabama||HB716||Dead|
|January 9, 2006||Oklahoma||HB 2107||Dead|
|January 10, 2006||Alabama||HB106||Dead|
|January 10, 2006||Alabama||SB45||Dead|
|January 24, 2006||Oklahoma||SB 1959||Dead|
|February 16, 2006||Maryland||HB 1531||Dead|
|January 21, 2007||New Mexico||SB 371||Dead|
|January 24, 2007||New Mexico||HB 506||Dead|
|March 13, 2007||Missouri||HB 469||Dead|
|February 7, 2008||Discovery Institute offers model language for academic freedom bills|
|February 29, 2008||Florida||SB 2692||Dead|
|March 4, 2008||Florida||HB 1483||Dead|
|March 31, 2008||Louisiana||SB 561/733||Passed|
|April 1, 2008||Missouri||HB 2554||Dead|
|April 21, 2008||Louisiana||HB1168||Dead|
|April 24, 2008||Alabama||HB923||Dead|
|April 30, 2008||Michigan||HB 6027||Dead|
|May 15, 2008||South Carolina||SB 1386||Dead|
|June 3, 2008||Michigan||SB 1361||Dead|
|February 2, 2009||Oklahoma||SB 320||Dead|
|February 3, 2009||Alabama||HB300||Dead|
|February 3, 2009||Iowa||HF 183||Dead|
|February 3, 2009||New Mexico||SB 433||Dead|
|February 10, 2009||Missouri||HB 656||Dead|
|March 13, 2009||Texas||HB 4224||Dead|
|May 21, 2009||South Carolina||S 875||Dead|
|January 13, 2010||Missouri||HB 1651||Dead|
|February 8, 2010||Kentucky||HB 397||Dead|
|January 4, 2011||Kentucky||HB 169||Dead|
|January 13, 2011||Missouri||HB 195||Filed|
|February 1, 2011||New Mexico||HB 302||Dead|
|February 7, 2011||Oklahoma||HB 1551||Dead|
|February 7, 2011||Oklahoma||SB 554||Dead|
|February 9, 2011||Tennessee||HB 368||Passed in 2012|
|February 16, 2011||Tennessee||SB 893||See HB 368 above.|
|March 5, 2011||Florida||SB 1854||Dead|
|March 8, 2011||Texas||HB 2454||Dead|
|January 9, 2012||Indiana||HB 1140||Dead|
|February 6, 2012||Oklahoma||SB 1742||Dead|
|February 7, 2012||Missouri||HB 1276||Dead|
|November 5, 2012||Montana||HB 183||Tabled in committee|
|January 16, 2013||Missouri||HB 179||Referred to House Committee on Elementary and Secondary Education|
|January 16, 2013||Colorado||HB 13-1089||Postponed indefinitely by House Committee on Education|
|January 17, 2013||Oklahoma||HB 1674||Referred to House Committee on Common Education|
|January 17, 2013||Oklahoma||SB 758||Referred to Senate Committee on Education|
|January 23, 2013||Indiana||HB 1283||Referred to House Committee on Education|
|January 28, 2013||Arizona||SB 1213||Referred to Senate Committees on Education and Rules|
SYNOPSIS: Existing law does not expressly provide a right nor does it expressly protect tenure and employment for a public school teacher or teacher at an institution of higher education for presenting scientific information pertaining to the full range of scientific views regarding biological and chemical evolution. In addition, students are not expressly provided a right to positions on views regarding biological and chemical evolution.
This bill would expressly provide rights and protection for teachers concerning scientific presentations on views regarding biological and chemical evolution and students concerning their positions on views regarding biological and chemical evolution.
Providing teacher rights and protection for a public school teacher or a teacher at an institution of higher education to present scientific information pertaining to the full range of scientific views regarding biological and chemical evolution in applicable curricula or in a course of learning; providing employment and tenure protection and protection against discrimination for any public school teacher or teacher at a public institution of higher education related to the presentation of such information; and providing student protection for subscribing to a particular position on views regarding biological or chemical evolution.
BE IT ENACTED BY ____________:
Section 1. This law shall be known as the "Academic Freedom Act."
Section 2. The Legislature finds that existing law does not expressly protect the right of teachers identified by the United States Supreme Court in Edwards v. Aguillard to present scientific critiques of prevailing scientific theories. The Legislature further finds that existing law does not expressly protect the right of students to hold a position on views regarding biological or chemical evolution. The Legislature further finds that the topic of evolution has generated intense controversy, lawsuits and threats of lawsuits, where some lower courts such as Kitzmiller et al. v. Dover Area School Board, have created confusion about the rights of teachers and students to hold differing views about scientific controversies and express those views without fear of adverse employment or academic consequences. Finally, the Legislature finds that school districts and school administrators should not bear the primary burden of defending the academic freedom of teachers and students to discuss the topics of biological or chemical evolution. It is the intent of the Legislature that this act expressly protects those rights.
Section 3. Every K-12 public school teacher or teacher or instructor in any two-year or four-year public institution of higher education, or in any graduate or adult program thereof, in the State of ______________, shall have the affirmative right and freedom to present scientific information pertaining to the full range of scientific views regarding biological and chemical evolution.
Section 4. No K-12 public school teacher or teacher or instructor in any two-year or four-year public institution of higher education, or in any graduate or adult program thereof, in the State of ___________, shall be terminated, disciplined, denied tenure, or otherwise discriminated against for presenting scientific information pertaining to the full range of scientific views regarding biological or chemical evolution in any curricula or course of learning, provided, with respect to K-12 teachers, the [insert official title of state’s science standards] has been taught as appropriate to the grade and subject assignment.
Section 5. Students may be evaluated based upon their understanding of course materials, but no student in any public school or institution of higher education shall be penalized in any way because he or she may subscribe to a particular position on any views regarding biological or chemical evolution.
Section 6. The rights and privileges contained in this act apply when the subject of biological or chemical origins is part of the curriculum. Nothing in this act shall be construed as requiring or encouraging any change in the state curriculum standards in K-12 public schools, nor shall any provision of this act be construed as prescribing the curricular content of any course in any two-year or four-year public institution of higher education in the state.
Section 7. Nothing in this act shall be construed as promoting any religious doctrine, promoting discrimination for or against a particular set of religious beliefs, or promoting discrimination for or against religion or non-religion.
Section 8. This act shall become effective on the first day of the third month following its passage and approval by the Governor, or its otherwise becoming law.