In the wake of the repeal effort


The attempt to repeal Louisiana's antievolution law was discussed by the Christian Science Monitor (June 2, 2011), which explained, "The Louisiana Science Education Act, which allows teaching contrary to science on the grounds it promotes critical thinking, is increasingly serving as an inspiration to religious conservatives in other states." Antievolution bills were introduced in Florida, Kentucky, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Tennessee, and Texas so far in 2011, all dying except in Tennessee, where a bill was passed by the House of Representatives; its counterpart is on hold in the Senate until 2012.

Meanwhile, Louisiana's Senate Bill 70, which would have repealed the state's antievolution law, was shelved on a 5-1 vote by the Senate Education Committee on May 26, 2011, despite the wide support for it from the scientific and educational communities — including the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the Louisiana Science Teachers Association, and forty-three Nobel laureate scientists. Harold Kroto, a recipient of the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 1996, was quoted as comparing a vote against the repeal to "requiring Louisiana school texts to include the claim that the Sun goes round the Earth."

Thus the law — Louisiana Revised Statutes 17:285.1, which implemented the so-called Louisiana Science Education Act, passed and enacted in 2008 — remains on the books. The bill ostensibly promotes "critical thinking skills, logical analysis, and open and objective discussion of scientific theories being studied including, but not limited to, evolution, the origins of life, global warming, and human cloning." It also allows teachers to use "supplemental textbooks and other instructional materials to help students understand, analyze, critique, and review scientific theories in an objective manner" if so permitted by their local school boards.

Critics of the antievolution law worry that it promises to "embolden those who may feel tempted to voluntarily introduce theories that conflict with scientific teachings," the Monitor reported, quoting NCSE's Joshua Rosenau as explaining, "For a teacher who wants to teach creationism, it doesn’t stop them from doing it." While defenders of the law claimed that there is no evidence that teachers are doing so, Barbara Forrest of the Louisiana Coalition for Science responded, "it might go on for years before we ever found out. It would take a very gutsy kid who was alert enough to go home and tell mom and dad."

There is evidence that Louisiana's antievolution law emboldened creationists in Livingston Parish. As NCSE previously reported, in July 2010, the director of curriculum told the Livingston Parish School Board that the law allowed the presentation of creationism in science classes. The response was enthusiastic, with members of the board asking, "Why can't we get someone with religious beliefs to teach creationism?" and saying, "Teachers should have the freedom to look at creationism and find a way to get into into the classroom" and subsequently declaiming, "We don't want litigation, but why not take a stand for Jesus and risk litigation."