First Amendment award for Kopplin

Zack KopplinZack Kopplin

NCSE is delighted to congratulate Zack Kopplin, the leader of the effort to repeal the so-called Louisiana Science Education Act, on his receiving the Hugh M. Hefner First Amendment Award. According to a press release from the Playboy Foundation quoted by the Alexandria, Louisiana, Town Talk (May 27, 2012), the award was established in 1979 and is intended to "honor individuals who have made significant contributions in the vital effort to protect and enhance First Amendment rights for all Americans. The award winners, many of whom are unsung heroes, come from various walks of life." Kopplin will receive a cash award of $5,000 and a commemorative plaque.

Kopplin launched the effort to repeal Louisiana Revised Statutes 17:285.1, which encourages the state's science teachers to miseducate their students about the scientific standing of evolution and climate change, as a high school senior in 2011. He renewed his effort in 2012, aided with the support of seventy-eight Nobel laureates — "nearly 40% of all living Nobel laureate scientists in physics, chemistry, or physiology or medicine," as he observed in a press release. Senate Bill 384, which would have repealed the law, was rejected on a 2-1 vote in the Senate Education Committee in April 2012. Its 2011 counterpart, Senate Bill 70, was tabled by the same committee on a 5-1 vote in March 2011.

Endorsing the repeal effort — in addition to the seventy-eight Nobelists — have been the National Association of Biology Teachers, the Louisiana Association of Biology Educators, the Louisiana Coalition for Science, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Institute for Biological Sciences, the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, the American Society for Cell Biology, the Society for the Study of Evolution together with the Society of Systematic Biologists and the American Society of Naturalists, the Clergy Letter Project, the New Orleans City Council, and the Baton Rouge Advocate.

Kopplin's initiative was previously honored by NCSE, which awarded him (and the University of California Museum of Paleontology's Judy Scotchmoor) its Friend of Darwin award for 2012. Kopplin is the second person to receive both a Hefner Award and NCSE's Friend of Darwin Award, following Patricia Princehouse, Lecturer in Philosophy and Evolutionary Biology at Case Western Reserve University. NCSE's executive director Eugenie C. Scott received a Hefner Award in 1999 and subsequently served as a judge on the Playboy Foundation's award committee in 2006.