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Antiscience bill in Virginia dies

Virginia's House Bill 207 died in the House Education Committee on February 11, 2014, when a deadline for bills to pass their house of origin passed. The bill, which would have deprived administrators of the ability to prevent teachers from miseducating students about "scientific controversies," was previously referred by the House Education Committee to the House Committee of Courts on Justice. Unusually, the latter committee refused to accept the bill, so it returned to the former committee, which failed to consider it again before the passage of the deadline.

The sole sponsor of the bill was Richard P. "Dickie" Bell (R-District 20), who acknowledged to the Washington Post (January 29, 2014) that evolution and climate change "might fall into [the] category" of scientific controversies mentioned by the bill. Bell earlier told The Recorder (January 23, 2014) that he was himself a creationist and regarded global warming as "all theory at this point"; he later told WRIC (January 31, 2014) that the bill originated with the Virginia Christian Alliance, a radical religious right organization that explicitly promotes young-earth creationism.

The Recorder (January 23, 2014) editorially opposed the bill, as did the Virginian-Pilot (February 4, 2014), which editorially commented, "[A]nti-evolutionists have shifted their approach to advocate teaching evolution theory with a scientifically unjustified emphasis on its uncertainties ... That approach animates Bell's bill, which would work by tying the hands of school administrators," adding, "[S]cience teachers — alone among educators — [would be] exempt from guidance about what they should teach and repercussions for failing to cover required curricula."