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Creationist bill in Indiana shelved

"A bill passed last month by the Indiana Senate that would have allowed schools to teach religious stories of creation along with the theory of evolution when discussing the origins of life in science class is dead," according to the Indianapolis Star's education blog (February 14, 2012). The bill in question is 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 bill subsequently proceeded to the House of Representatives. But the Speaker of the House, Brian Bosma (R-District 88), was disinclined to let it continue further, as the Times of Munster (February 2, 2012) reported, as was the chair of the House Education Committee, Robert Behning (R-District 91), as the Associated Press (February 7, 2012) reported. Now, according to the Star's education blog, Bosma "moved the bill to the rules committee, a procedural step that all but assures it will not make it to a vote this year." The bill would have to be approved by its committee and by the full House by March 5, 2012, in order to be passed by the legislature. "I didn't disagree with the concept of the bill," Bosma said. "But I hesitate to micromanage local curricula. Secondarily, I didn't think it was prudent to buy a lawsuit the state could ill afford at this point."

SB 89 was widely criticized by newspapers around the state, including the Indianapolis Star (February 1, 2012), the Evanston Courier & Press (February 3, 2012), and the Terre Haute Tribune Star (February 10, 2012), which argued, "There is little doubt the target of the bill is evolution, whose staunchest political and religious opponents display little interest in the teaching of good science, which should be a disinterested, peer-reviewed, religion-neutral process." The Tribune Star's editorial also observed that there is a deeper problem: "In 2011, the National Survey of High School Biology Teachers discovered that less than 30 percent of a sample of public school instructors made students aware of the evidence for evolution. The reasons for this may be manifold, but when so few Americans become literate in even the rudiments of science, it's unlikely they'll gain the skills to distinguish it from pseudoscience."