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"Creationism Crusade" in Church & State

Rob Boston's "Creationism Crusade," published in the July/August 2011 issue of Church & State, reviews the latest battles, in state legislatures and elsewhere, over the teaching of evolution. The antievolution bills in Tennessee — House Bill 368, which passed the Tennessee House of Representatives in April 2011, and its counterpart Senate Bill 893, which is on hold in the Senate until the legislature reconvenes in 2012 — were described as "showing an increasing sophistication on the part of activists who are determined to revise biology instruction to conform to religious dogma."

Also discussed was the attempt to repeal Louisiana's antievolution law. Zach Kopplin, the Baton Rouge high school student who spearheaded the repeal effort, told Church & State, "I've always wanted to take this law on, since it was passed three years ago ... When it first passed, friends and family from around the country read about it in The New York Times, and it was really embarrassing. This law doesn't just affect my reputation with friends and family though. Louisiana has an anti-science reputation that will make it harder for Louisiana students to get the cutting-edge jobs in science that they want.”

Boston also cited Michael B. Berkman and Eric Plutzer's National Survey of High School Biology Teachers, which found that only 28% taught evolution forthrightly, while a whopping 60% were "cautious" about teaching evolution, often due to pressure from their communities. NCSE's deputy director Glenn Branch commented, "Teachers need to know that they have support for teaching evolution forthrightly ... in a scientifically accurate and pedagogically appropriate way, without any compromises to mollify the objections of those who reject evolution on religious grounds."

After noting that not all people of faith are opposed to evolution (and citing NCSE's Voices for Evolution, which includes a number of denominational statements on evolution), Boston concluded by quoting Barry W. Lynn, the executive director of Americans United for Separation for Church and State (which publishes Church & State), himself an ordained minister. "The Religious Right aims to replace science instruction in public classrooms with fundamentalist Sunday School lessons," Lynn commented. "Religious liberty and good science education are at stake. That's why we must speak out.”