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Antievolution language removed from Michigan bill


Antievolution language was removed from a Michigan education bill before it was passed. As introduced, House Bill 5606 would have amended the state's school code to establish requirements for high school graduation, including by requiring the Michigan Department of Education to adopt course content expectations for science that "include using the scientific method to critically evaluate scientific theories and using relevant scientific data to assess the validity of those theories and formulate arguments for and against those theories." Although evolution was not mentioned specifically, the quoted language was taken verbatim from HB 5251, which specifically targeted "the theories of global warming and evolution" for attention.

The sponsor of HB 5606, Brian Palmer (R-District 36), disclaimed any intention to promote "intelligent design" with the bill. But Palmer was a cosponsor of HB 5251, as well as of 2003's HB 4946, which would have amended the state science standards to refer to "the theory that life is the result of the purposeful, intelligent design of a Creator." Moreover, the primary sponsor of HB 5251, John Moolenaar (R-District 98), was reported [Link broken] by the Detroit Free Press (January 28, 2006) as saying that HB 5606 would allow, though not require, the teaching of "intelligent design" and suggesting that it would require the teaching of "possible weaknesses" of evolution. The Free Press (February 8, 2006) editorially commented [Link broken], "The bill's broader goal of raising academic standards must not be jeopardized by sloppy writing at best, sneaky politics at worst."

HB 5606 was introduced on January 24, 2006, and referred to the House Committee on Education, which accepted a slightly amended version of it. The House of Representatives then passed the bill by a vote of 70-31 on March 2, 2006. Still containing the language from HB 5251 (although the words "at least" were inserted between "include" and "using"), HB 5606 proceeded to the Senate. But the Senate had ideas of its own about requirements for high school graduation, and substituted its own version of the bill, lacking the language from HB 5251, for HB 5606. The Senate passed its version of HB 5606 by a vote of 36-1 on March 23, but then on the same day the House voted against accepting it by a vote of 93-13.

It was thus necessary for a conference committee to reconcile the two versions of HB 5606, as well as Senate Bill 1124, which also sought to establish requirements for high school graduation. The conference committee's version of the bill, lacking the language from HB 5251, was passed by the House by a vote of 97-9 on March 29 and by the Senate by a vote of 37-0 on March 30, and then signed into law by Governor Jennifer Granholm on April 20. Meanwhile, HB 5251 -- the original source of the antievolution language that was stripped from HB 5606 -- still lingers in the House Education Committee; the Michigan legislative website reports no action on it since it was referred there on September 29, 2005.