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Mounting opposition to Indiana's creationist bill

Opposition to Indiana's Senate Bill 89, which if enacted would allow local school districts to "require the teaching of various theories concerning the origin of life, including creation science," is mounting — and coming, moreover, from a variety of perspectives.

In a letter dated January 18, 2012, the Center for Inquiry — which seeks to "foster a secular society based on science, reason, freedom of inquiry, and humanist values" — wrote (PDF) to the sponsor of SB 89, Dennis Kruse (R-District 14) to request that he withdraw the bill. The CFI's letter explained, "SB 89 would allow school boards and other authorized educational administrators in Indiana to require that religious belief be taught in public school classrooms as valid and true. This would violate both the spirit and letter of the Establishment Clause of the U.S. Constitution," adding, "SB 89 would also blatantly contradict the Supreme Court's ruling in the 1987 case Edwards v. Aguillard that teaching creationism as science in public schools is unconstitutional." In addition to Ron Lindsay and Michael DeDora of the CFI national office, the letter was signed by Reba Boyd Wooden, the executive director of CFI Indiana.

In a column for the Indianapolis Star (January 20, 2012), James McGrath offered to leave it to scientists to explain that "creation science" is anything but scientific and to legal experts to explain that the provisions of SB 89 are unconstitutional. "But as a professor who teaches biblical studies," he wrote, "I want to get the word out that 'creation science' or young-earth creationism is problematic for another reason: It involves poor, and at times deceitful, biblical interpretation." He recommended, "Instead of listening to charlatans propounding pseudoscience of their own invention that is neither biblical nor scientific, I would like to encourage people of faith in Indiana to listen to people who share their faith and who also have expertise in biology." McGrath is Associate Professor of Religion and Clarence L. Goodwin Chair in New Testament Language and Literature at Butler University.

And Jacob Homan, in a column for the Munster, Indiana, Times (January 23, 2012), wrote, "Ratification of this bill would be both an embarrassment to Indiana and do a tremendous disservice to students across the state," explaining, "It would be an embarrassment because the theory of evolution maintains a very high degree of confidence among the scientific community and because creationism is not a science." Noting that various religious leaders and organizations have denounced the teaching of creationism, Homan called on the religious community to speak out against the bill: "Religious leaders also share the responsibility to look out for the best interest of public school students, and SB89 is a clear deviation from that responsibility that merits response." Homan, who hails from Whiting, Indiana, and earned his undergraduate degree at Purdue University, is a graduate student in political science at the University of Chicago.

SB 89 is scheduled for a committee hearing on January 25, 2012. Its sponsor Dennis Kruse told the Indianapolis Star (January 22, 2012), "I believe in creationism ... Just because there are constitutional concerns doesn't mean you don't try to get something done you believe in."