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Louisiana to repeal 1981 creationist law?
Louisiana's Senate Bill 205 would, if enacted, repeal the state's Balanced Treatment for Creation-Science and Evolution-Science Act, which was enacted in 1981 and declared to be unconstitutional by the United States Supreme Court in Edwards v. Aguillard in 1987. SB 205 originally provided only for the establishment of foreign language immersion programs in public school districts. After the Senate Committee on Education tabled SB 26, which would have repealed the so-called Louisiana Science Education Act, at its May 1, 2013, meeting, Dan Claitor (R-District 16) proposed to amend SB 205, sponsored by Eric LaFleur (D-District 28), by adding, "Subpart D-2 of Part III of Chapter 1 of Title 17 of the Louisiana Revised Statutes of 1950, comprised of R.S. 17:286.1 through 286.7, is hereby repealed." The amendment was unanimously adopted by the committee on a voice vote.
As amended, SB 205 passed the Senate on a 36-2 vote on May 13, 2013. During the Senate's deliberations, Karen Carter Peterson (D-District 5), who introduced SB 26 (and identical bills in 2012 and 2011), proposed to amend SB 205 to repeal the LSEA. The Associated Press (May 13, 2013) quoted her as saying, "This act should not be on the books ... It does not make sense." The repeal effort is endorsed by seventy-eight Nobel laureates in the sciences, the National Association of Biology Teachers, the Louisiana Association of Biology Educators, the Louisiana Coalition for Science, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Institute for Biological Sciences, the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, the American Society for Cell Biology, the Society for the Study of Evolution together with the Society of Systematic Biologists and the American Society of Naturalists, the Clergy Letter Project, the New Orleans City Council, and the Baton Rouge Advocate. But Peterson's motion was rejected on a 5-32 vote.
Before a final vote on SB 205 was taken, Ben Nevers (D-District 12), who sponsored the LSEA in the Senate in 2008, expressed opposition to the repeal of the Balanced Treatment Act, arguing that it would be useful for it to be on the books in case the Supreme Court ever reverses its holding in Edwards. Barbara Forrest, Professor of Philosophy at Southeastern Louisiana University and a member of NCSE's board of directors, commented, "It's encouraging that the Louisiana legislature is finally taking action to remove the Balanced Treatment Act from the statute book, twenty-six years after the Supreme Court ruled that it was unconstitutional. But I really hope that it won't take twenty-six years and a Supreme Court case to convince it to repeal the equally pernicious Louisiana Science Education Act." The bill now goes to Louisiana's House of Representatives.Updated on May 13, 2013, by the addition of the second paragraph.