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Missouri antievolution bill advances

Missouri's House Bill 1472, which would require school districts to allow parents to have their children excused from learning about evolution, was passed by the House Committee on Elementary and Secondary Education on March 12, 2014, after having a public hearing on February 13, 2014. The bill is not yet on the House calendar.

As NCSE previously reported, the bill's sponsor Rick Brattin (R-District 55) told the Kansas City Star (February 6, 2014) that requiring students to study evolution is "an absolute infringement on people's rights" and that evolution is "just as much faith and, you know, just as much pulled out of the air as, say, any religion."

Writing in the Columbia Tribune (March 18, 2014), Frank Schmidt, a professor of biochemistry at the University of Missouri and president of the grassroots organization Missouri Citizens for Science, expressed dismay with the recurrent legislative attempts to undermine the teaching of evolution in his state.

"Our colleagues call us up or seek us out at conferences to commiserate about the sorry state of science in Missouri," Schmidt wrote. "They look behind our backs to see whether they can move one of our bio-based businesses across the border, into Iowa or Illinois. Even worse, they cluck their tongues semi-sympathetically, telling us to be glad we're not in Kansas."

Schmidt also offered a sarcastic comparison of HB 1472 with a parallel provision of state law allowing parents to have their children excused from sex education, suggesting, "So maybe if the General Assembly puts evolution on a par with sex, the young ones will decide it's worth learning about. Otherwise, why take them out of class?"

A separate antievolution bill in Missouri, House Bill 1587, which would deprive administrators of the ability to prevent teachers from miseducating students about "scientific controversies" around evolution, is still with the House Committee on Elementary and Secondary Education, where no hearing for it is yet scheduled.