Louisiana to repeal 1981 creationist law?

03.14.2016

Louisiana's Senate Bill 156 (PDF) would, if enacted, repeal the state's Balanced Treatment for Creation-Science and Evolution-Science Act, which was enacted in 1981 and declared to be unconstitutional by the United States Supreme Court in Edwards v. Aguillard in 1987. Yet the law remains on the books. SB 156 was prefiled by Dan Claitor (R-District 16) on March 3, 2016, and referred to the Senate Committee on Education.

It is Claitor's third attempt to repeal the law. In 2013, his amendment to Senate Bill 205 to repeal the 1981 law was approved by the Senate — despite the opposition of Ben Nevers (D-District 12), the senate sponsor of the so-called Louisiana Science Education Act of 2008, who argued that it would be useful for the law to be on the books in case the Edwards decision is ever reversed — but was later stripped from the bill.

In 2014, Claitor introduced Senate Bill 70, which also would have repealed the 1981 law, prompting Barbara Forrest, Professor of Philosophy at Southeastern Louisiana University and a member of NCSE's board of directors to comment, "It shouldn't take twenty-seven years and a Supreme Court case to convince the legislature to repeal the Balanced Treatment Act." But SB 70 was rejected by the Senate without debate.

Passage of SB 156 would not affect the so-called Louisiana Science Education Act of 2008. Five attempts to repeal the 2008 law — SB 70 in 2011, SB 374 in 2012, SB 26 in 2013, SB 175 in 2014, and SB 74 in 2015 — have been introduced by Karen Carter Peterson (D-District 5). So far no such bill has been introduced in the current legislative session, which begins on March 14, 2016, and ends no later than June 6, 2016.