Oklahoma update


Oklahoma's House Bill 2107 was passed by the House by a vote of 77-10 on March 2, 2006. On March 15, it was referred to the Senate Committee on Appropriations, and then on March 21 to the Appropriations subcommittee on education, where it remains. The bill findins that "existing law does not expressly protect the right of teachers identified by the United States Supreme Court in Edwards v. Aguillard to present scientific critiques of prevailing scientific theories" and encourages the presentation of "the full range of scientific views" with regard to "biological or chemical origins of life."

When the House passed the bill, the Associated Press (March 2, 2006) quoted [Link broken] its lead sponsor, Representative Sally Kern (R-District 55), as saying, "This bill is not about a belief in God. It is not about religion. It is about science. ... I'm not asking for Sunday school to be in a science class." Her colleague Tad Jones (R-District 9), however, expressed his support for the bill by saying, "Do you think you come from a monkeyman? ... Did we come from slimy algae 4.5 billion years ago or are we a unique creation of God? I think it's going to be exciting for students to discuss these issues."

A subsequent editorial in The Oklahoman (March 7, 2006) argued, "This proposed law is unnecessary. Teachers are free to have discussions with their students, to help them think critically about important issues." Adopting a more caustic tone, the Tahlequah Daily Press (March 22, 2006) referred to the decision in Kitzmiller v. Dover, warning, "Mrs. Kern may not want to educate herself on the intricacies of evolutionary theory, but she ought to at least bone up on the First Amendment. Especially the part about Congress making no law respecting an establishment of religion."

Community opposition to HB 2107 was expressed at a press conference sponsored by the Tulsa Interfaith Alliance on March 22, the Tulsa World (March 23, 2006), reports. Professors from the University of Tulsa argued that the bill would adversely affect science education; the president of the Tulsa school board explained that the bill was unnecessary; a partner in a local oil company noted that businesses are concerned about the quality of science education; and a professor of law at the University of Tulsa commented that the state might incur legal fees exceeding $1 million, as in Kitzmiller, should the bill be passed and successfully challenged.

HB 2107 is one of four antievolution bills to be introduced in the Oklahoma legislature in 2006. The other three are HCR 1043 (encouraging the state board of education and local school boards to ensure that students are able to "critically evaluate scientific theories including, but not limited to, the theory of evolution" with regard to "biological or chemical origins of life"), HB 2526 (authorizing school districts to teach "intelligent design"), and SB 1959 (encouraging the presentation of "the full range of scientific views"). Although these bills are still alive, according to Oklahoma's legislative website, Oklahomans for Excellence in Science Education regards them as effectively dead.