You are here

Close Ohio House Vote Scuttles "Evidence Against Evolution" Bill

On May 28, 1996, state representative Ron Hood's HB 692 was voted down in the Ohio House of Representatives Education Committee by a vote of 8-12. When introduced on April 12, 1996, the bill stated that
Whenever a theory of the origin of humans, other living things, or the universe that might commonly be referred to as "evolution" is included in the instructional program provided by any school district or educational service center, both evidence and arguments supporting or consistent with the theory and evidence and arguments problematic for, inconsistent with, or not supporting the theory shall be included.
The bill was assigned to the Education Committee. Legislators changed the wording slightly, inserting "scientific" before the words "arguments." The Education Committee held a public hearing on May 14, 1996. Four opposition speakers and 28 supporters of the bill attended. NCSE member Steve Edinger reports that "The supporters of the bill were very well organized, with name tags identifying themselves as 'Students for 692,' 'Educators for 692,' 'Parents for 692,' etc. A very sizable share of the supporters had the same set of booklets and pamphlets from the Institute for Creation Research. It appears, as I had suspected, these people were ready to make a show of support even before Representative Hood introduced the bill so 'spontaneous grassroots support' could appear when the hearing started." According to reports, students testified that they had been traumatized by having had evolution presented in their science classes.

One of the citizens testifying was Louisville, OH school board member Andrew Aljancic, who proposed that the legislature adopt the creationist book Of Pandas and People as the standard "balanced treatment" textbook. The chair of the Education Committee replied that Aljancic could promote the book in his home district and that passage of HB 692 was not needed for him to do this. Louisville has been the site since 1991 of a continuing fight over introducing creationism to the science curriculum (see Reports 13(3):p. 1.)

The four speaking against the bill, a decided minority, included NCSE members Steve Edinger and Frank Zindler. Edinger also gave the legislators scores of letters and statements from scientists and other Ohio citizens protesting the passage of the bill.

After the committee hearing, efforts were made to "pass the hot potato" by dropping the issue into the lap of the State Department of Education. Representatives argued that the department could implement instruction in evolution and "evidence against evolution" administratively, thus taking the issue out of the hands of the legislature. At the time of this writing, the Department of Education is not considering such action.

When the final vote was taken on May 28, a majority of representatives voted against sending the bill to the floor of the House. There was, however, strong support for the bill in committee. NCSE member Tom McIver interviewed Education Committee member Edward Kaputis (R-Cleveland) who related his enthusiasm for creation "science" and recommended the writings and teachings of young-earth creationism advocate Ken Ham, founder of the "Answers in Genesis" ministry located in nearby northem Kentucky. Rejection of the bill was bipartisan.

NCSE members expressed concern that the appearance of evolution as a "controversial issue" at the state level in Ohio could intimidate teachers from teaching evolution. They also are concerned that, in the words of Steve Edinger, "Creationism is like a vampire, and every time you think the thing is finally dead, someone pulls the damned stake out again." NCSE will keep you informed should new developments in Ohio suggest a need for fresh garlic.