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Antievolution bills die in South Carolina

Two antievolution bills, Senate Bill 873 and Senate Bill 875, died in committee when the South Carolina legislature adjourned on June 3, 2010. Both bills were introduced on May 21, 2009, and referred to the Senate Education Committee, where they apparently never received a hearing. Both bills were sponsored by Senator Michael Fair (R-District 6), who spearheaded a number of previous antievolution efforts in South Carolina. With respect to his 2003 attempt to establish a committee to "determine whether alternatives to evolution as the origin of species should be offered in schools," the Greenville News (May 1, 2003) reported that Fair "said his intention is to show that Intelligent Design is a viable scientific alternative that should be taught in the public schools."

A version of the "academic freedom" antievolution bill, S. 875 provided, "Teachers must be permitted to help students understand, analyze, critique, and review in an objective manner the scientific strengths and weaknesses of existing scientific theories pertinent to the course. ... School governing authorities including, but not limited to, school and district superintendents, principals, and administrators, may not prohibit a teacher in a public school in this State from helping students understand, analyze, critique, and review in an objective manner the scientific strengths and weaknesses of existing scientific theories pertinent to the course." Since 2004, thirty-two "academic freedom" antievolution bills have been introduced; all but one, Louisiana's SB 561/733, failed to pass.

S. 873, however, was apparently unique. If enacted, it would have required the state board of education to "examine all curriculum in use in this State that purports to teach students about the origins of mankind to determine whether the curriculum maintains neutrality toward religion." The bill further provided, "Related to non-religion, the examination must include a review as to whether the curriculum contains a sense of affirmatively opposing or showing hostility to religion, thus preferring those who believe in no religion over those who hold religious beliefs." If the review revealed that a curriculum is not religiously neutral, then the bill would have required that "the offending curriculum must be revised or replaced as soon as practicable."