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Repeal effort fails in committee

Despite the overwhelming support for SB 70 from scientific and educational organizations around the state and across the country, the Louisiana Senate Education Committee voted 5-1 to shelve the bill on May 26, 2011, according to a blogger for the Baton Rouge Advocate (May 26, 2011). If enacted, SB 70 would have repealed Louisiana Revised Statutes 17:285.1, which implemented the so-called Louisiana Science Education Act, passed and enacted in 2008. As Barbara Forrest recently explained in a column for Louisiana Progress (May 18, 2011), the LSEA "was promoted only by creationists. Neither parents, nor science teachers, nor scientists requested it. No one wanted it except the Louisiana Family Forum (LFF), a religious organization that lobbies aggressively for its regressive agenda, and the Discovery Institute (DI), a creationist think tank in Seattle, Washington, that couldn't care less about Louisiana children."

Among those testifying for SB 70 were Zack Kopplin, the Baton Rouge high school student who spearheaded the repeal effort; Ian Binns, a professor of science education at Louisiana State University; the Reverend C. Welton Gaddy (by proxy), the president of The Interfaith Alliance; and Patsye Peebles, a veteran science teacher, recipient of the Louisiana Outstanding Biology Teacher Award, and cofounder of the Louisiana Coalition for Science. Among those testifying against the bill were representatives of the Louisiana Family Forum, the radical religious right group that orchestrated the passage of the LSEA, and a representative of Governor Bobby Jindal, who signed the LSEA into law in 2008 despite the exhortation of educators and scientists, including Brown University's Arthur Landy, who expressed (PDF) his hope that his former student "doesn't do anything that would hold back the next generation of Louisiana's doctors."

NCSE's executive director Eugenie C. Scott, who watched the webcast of the hearings, commented, "Listening to the opponents of the repeal bill during this hearing was like listening to old tapes of Henry Morris [of the Institute for Creation Research]. There was even the claim that evolution is dubious because it is 'origin science' — a notion to be found only in creationist literature." Reflecting on the result of the committee's vote, she expressed disappointment, but emphasized her admiration for Kopplin, the Louisiana Coalition for Science, SB 70's sponsor Karen Carter Peterson (D-District 5), and the host of Louisianans who worked to rally support for the bill. "This is more than anyone ever expected when Zack launched his campaign last fall," she added, "and with such a strong response in favor of repealing the antievolution bill, I feel confident that we haven't heard the last of the attempt to restore the integrity of science education in Louisiana."