Weakened version of Michigan antievolution bill progresses


Michigan's House Bill 5251 passed the House Education Committee by a vote of 15-2 on June 28, 2006, according to a report [Link broken] in the Saginaw News (June 29, 2006). The bill originally called for the state board of education to revise the state science standards to ensure that students will be able to "(a) use the scientific method to critically evaluate scientific theories including, but not limited to, the theories of global warming and evolution [and] (b) Use relevant scientific data to assess the validity of those theories and to formulate arguments for or against those theories," but the references to global warming and evolution were reportedly removed in committee. HB 5251 now proceeds to the House for its second reading.

The primary sponsor of HB 5251, Representative John Moolenaar (R-District 98), denied that permitting the teaching of "intelligent design" was the point of the bill. Yet Moolenaar was a cosponsor of explicit antievolution legislation in Michigan in the previous (2003-2004) legislative session: HB 4946, which would have amended the state science standards to refer to "the theory that life is the result of the purposeful, intelligent design of a Creator," and HB 5005, which would have allowed the teaching of "the design hypothesis as an explanation for the origin and diversity of life" in public school science classes. These bills, as well as HB 5251, were denounced by the Michigan Science Teachers Association.

There was concern that the bill, if enacted, would encourage a threatened lawsuit against the Gull Lake School District, which in June 2005 instructed two middle school science teachers who were using Of Pandas and People and other creationist material in their science classes to desist. That decision prompted the Thomas More Law Center, which subsequently unsuccessfully represented the defendants in Kitzmiller v. Dover, to threaten to sue. A lawyer for the school district said that the original version of HB 5251 "essentially would provide a legal basis for [the] Thomas More Center to follow through on the threat to sue for not teaching intelligent design," adding that the bill mirrored the "intelligent design" movement's "teach the controversy" slogan.