New Louisiana Guidelines May Invite Creationist Ideas Into Public School Classes

A state education board in Louisi­ana has approved guidelines that critics say open the door to the teaching of creationism and “intelligent de­sign” (ID) in science classes.

Members of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education voted 10-0 Jan. 13 to adopt the new rules. Under pressure from the Louisiana Family Forum, the board altered a draft proposal and voted to strip out language that would have banned teaching “creationism or intelligent design.”

The board also removed language that barred materials that “advance the religious belief that a supernatural being created humankind.”

In addition, the board – under legislative mandate – approved language allowing teachers to use “supplemental” materials. Critics, including Americans United, oppose the use of such materials because they say it could be used as a vehicle to introduce items about creationism or intelligent design into classrooms, since most biology textbooks don’t discuss these pseudo-scientific concepts.

The board did temper the language somewhat by mandating that any supplemental material not promote religious doctrine and be “scientifically sound and supported by empirical evidence.”

But AU says the language remains problematic. It does not, for example, say who is to determine if a certain book, DVD or magazine article is “scientifically sound” and “supported by empirical evidence.”

Promoters of ID insist that their ideas are science, not religion. They are expected to use the language as a wedge to get their materials into public schools in the state. The Discovery Institute, a group that promotes ID, supported the language.

Americans United Trustee Barbara Forrest fought to make the guidelines strong. Forrest, a professor at Southeastern Louisiana University and co-author of Creationism’s Trojan Horse: The Wedge of Intelligent Design, pushed to persuade the board to ban the teaching of ID outright but did not prevail.

Louisiana legislators have persistently tried to water down instruction about evolution. In the 1980s, the state passed a so-called “balanced treatment” law requiring that “creation science” be taught alongside evolution. The measure was struck down by the Supreme Court in 1987.