"Academic Freedom Act" progresses in Alabama

by Nick Matzke

On April 8, the Alabama state Senate passed SB336, the "Academic Freedom Act," by a vote of 28-0. The bill gives teachers at public institutions "the affirmative right and freedom to present scientific, historical, theoretical, or evidentiary information pertaining to alternative theories or points of view on the subject of origins" and gives students the right to hold a "particular position on origins, so long as he or she demonstrates acceptable understanding of course materials." Before passage, an amendment added a new section, which reads, "The rights and privileges contained in this act do not apply to the presentation of theoretical information unless it is accompanied by scientific, historical, or evidentiary information."

The bill was passed 7-0 by the Senate Education Committee in March. During committee hearings in the Senate Education Committee on SB336 and in the House Education Committee on a similar bill (HB391), discussion revealed that the purpose of the "Academic Freedom Act" was to protect the teaching of creationism (see previous NCSE summary).

The engrossed version of SB336 went to the House, where it received its first reading on April 13, and was referred to the House Education Committee.

A new group, Alabama Citizens for Science Education (www.alscience.org), has recently formed with the mission "To promote the best possible science education in Alabama public schools." On its website, ACSE has posted critiques of SB336/HB391 from an educational perspective and a legal perspective.