Antievolution legislation in Missouri

01.14.2015

Missouri's House Bill 486 (PDF), introduced in the Missouri House of Representatives on January 13, 2015, would confer "academic freedom to teach scientific evidence regarding evolution" to teachers. If enacted, the bill would in effect encourage science teachers with idiosyncratic opinions to teach anything they pleased, and discourage responsible educational authorities from intervening. The bill specifically cites "the theory of biological and hypotheses of chemical evolution" as controversial.

HB 486 would require state and local educational authorities to "assist teachers to find more effective ways to present the science curriculum where it addresses scientific controversies and permit teachers "to help students understand, analyze, critique, and review in an objective manner the scientific strengths and scientific weaknesses of the theory of biological and hypotheses of chemical evolution"; it would prevent such authorities from "prohibit[ing] any teacher in a public school system of this state from helping students understand, analyze, critique, and review in an objective manner the scientific strengths and scientific weaknesses of biological or chemical evolution whenever these subjects are taught." A further section of HB 486 attempts to immunize it against constitutional scrutiny, insisting that the bill "shall not be construed to promote any theistic or nontheistic religious doctrine, promote discrimination for or against a particular set of theistic or nontheistic religious beliefs, or promote discrimination for or against theistic or nontheistic religion."

The sponsor of HB 486 is Andrew Koenig (R-District 99); he is currently the only sponsor of the bill. Koenig was the sponsor of a string of similar bills: HB 1587 in 2014, HB 179 in 2013, HB 1276 in 2012, and HB 195 in 2011. All failed. Koenig was also a cosponsor of a series of bills that would have required equal time for "intelligent design" in Missouri's public schools, including introductory courses at colleges and universities: HB 1472 in 2014, HB 291 in 2013, and HB 1227 in 2012. All failed.