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SB336 Approved by Alabama Senate Education Committee

by Nick Matzke

Senate Bill 336, the counterpart of Alabama House Bill 391, passed the Senate Education Committee on Wednesday, March 10 by a vote of 7-0.

If enacted, SB336 would provide teachers and instructors at public institutions "the affirmative right and freedom to present scientific, historical, theoretical, or evidentiary information pertaining to alternative theories or points of view on the subject of origins," and protection from penalties for teaching alternatives. The bill would also provide a student the right not to be penalized for holding "a particular position on origins, so long as he or she demonstrates acceptable understanding of course materials."

John Giles, president of the Alabama chapter of the Christian Coalition, was quoted in an Associated Press news story as saying that the bill "gives a license to teachers to teach alternative views on evolution and provides a statutory safety net against frivolous lawsuits from groups like the ACLU."

Paul Hubbert, executive secretary of the Alabama Education Association, was quoted in the same story as saying that he "didn't know of a single incident" of a teacher experiencing discrimination resulting from their teaching on origins.

According to an eyewitness account, some concerns about the bills were raised in House and Senate Education Committee hearings on Wednesday, February 3. During the House Education Committee hearing, Sen. Wendell Mitchell, the lead sponsor of SB336, was recognized to speak in support of HB391. When asked whether a student could insist that any position on origins be heard, Mitchell responded that the bill would level the playing field to allow the presentation of creationism. When asked if Buddhist or Hindu beliefs about creation could also be presented, Mitchell denied that this would happen. Similar concerns arose during the Senate Education Committee hearing. Sen. Beason said that he supported the bill and that the bill's intent was to protect creationism, but noted that the bill could open the door to what he considered to be undesirable alternative origins ideas such as those of Hinduism. A motion by Sen. Guin to reword the bill to refer specifically to creationism alone was opposed by Sen. Oden on the grounds that a lawsuit might result. The motion failed.

Links:

[Link has expired] Bill pushing alternatives to evolution moves ahead

SB336 Bill History

HB391 Bill History

ALISON: Alabama Legislative Information System ONline

Alabama Legislature Homepage