New antievolution legislation in Arkansas


House Bill 2607, introduced in the Arkansas House of Representatives as a shell bill on March 4, 2005, and amended and engrossed on March 10, is intended to allow the teaching of "intelligent design" as "a parallel to evolutionary theory" in the public schools of Arkansas. If enacted, the bill would require the state Department of Education to include "intelligent design" in its educational frameworks and encourage teachers in the state to include it in their lesson plans. Attempting to immunize itself against a likely challenge to its constitutionality, the bill describes "intelligent design" as not necessarily "attributing the creation of the world or it's [sic] creatures to any god or gods." Rita Sklar, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Arkansas, however, commented, "This is a blatant attempt to push religious dogma into our public schools; I feel confident that the Arkansas legislature will reject it. We all remember the 1981 creationism debacle, and we don't want Arkansas to be a national laughingstock again." The bill also echoes the so-called Santorum language stripped from the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, adding, "The prohibition of teaching alternative scientific theories is the cruelest and most abusive form of censorship because it prevents the very debate necessary for the scientific proof or disproof of competing theory." The sole sponsor of HB 2607 is Mike Martin (R-District 87), a first-term legislator.