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Indiana creationism bill passes the Senate

On January 31, 2012, the Indiana Senate voted 28-22 in favor of Senate Bill 89. As originally submitted, SB 89 provided, "The governing body of a school corporation may require the teaching of various theories concerning the origin of life, including creation science, within the school corporation." On January 30, 2012, however, it was amended in the Senate to provide instead, "The governing body of a school corporation may offer instruction on various theories of the origin of life. The curriculum for the course must include theories from multiple religions, which may include, but is not limited to, Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, and Scientology."

The Senate spent less than twenty minutes considering the bill, with its sponsor Dennis Kruse (R-District 14) defending it. Kruse acknowledged that the bill would be constitutionally problematic but, he told the education blogger at the Indianapolis Star (January 31, 2012), "This is a different Supreme Court," adding, "This Supreme Court could rule differently." The American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana's legal director Ken Falk was previously quoted in a story from the Associated Press (January 26, 2012) as saying that the bill is clearly unconstitutional and invites lawsuits: moreover, he added, "when lawmakers propose legislation they clearly know will end up in the courts, it wastes time and resources."

Speaking against the bill in the Senate were Tim Skinner (D-District 38), who expressed concern not only about the bill's constitutionality but also about the lack of guidance it provides for local school teachers and districts and the logistics of defending them against lawsuits, and Karen Tallian (D-District 4), who was impassioned in her opposition against the bill: the Times of Munster (January 31, 2012) quoted her as saying, "In my mind, this violates everything we stand for as Americans ... The very fact that we're talking about this makes me heartsick." Tallian also mentioned the 2005 case Kitzmiller v. Dover, arguing that the bill invites local districts in Indiana to follow disastrously in the steps of the Dover Area School Board.

Skinner's and Tallian's arguments echoed the concerns of John Staver of Purdue University, who previously testified against the bill in committee. He told the Purdue Exponent (January 31, 2012), "If this does become law, they are going to face legal problems and, given the legal precedents, it is very likely to lose ... And then they're going to have bills to pay and schools are struggling enough with bills to pay without this happening." NCSE's Eric Meikle added, "I have trouble understanding why people think it's necessary ... If they want classes on philosophy or comparative religion, they can do that. There’s nothing that stops classes about religion, just don’t promote religion."

The bill now proceeds to the Indiana House of Representatives, where its sponsors are Jeff Thompson (R-District 28) and Eric Turner (R-District 32), who is also the house speaker pro tem. Thompson, interestingly, is also a cosponsor, along with Cindy Noe (R-District 87), of House Bill 1140, which would require teachers to discuss "commonly held competing views" on topics "that cannot be verified by scientific empirical evidence." While evolution is not mentioned in the bill, Noe cohosted a controversial dinner at the Creation Evidence Expo in Indianapolis in 2009, according to the Fort Wayne Reader (August 23, 2010). In any case, HB 1140 seems to have died in committee.