‘Academic Freedom’ Bills Open Classroom Door To Creationism

Religious Right activists in Florida failed to pass “academic freedom” legislation intended to promote “intelligent design” creationism in public school science classes.

On April 23, the Florida Senate voted 21-17 in favor of a bill to allow teachers and students to use “scientific information” to challenge evolution. But the measure failed in the House when evolution opponents there preferred their own much more radical approach. The House bill would have required that schools teach “critical analysis” of evolution.

The Senate measure had the strong backing of the Discovery Institute, a Religious Right group that looks for ways to undermine instruction about evolution. The Evolution Academic Freedom Act, SB 2692, sponsored by Sen. Ronda Storms (R-Brandon), reflected the Institute’s approach.

Americans United for Separation of Church and State fought the bill.

In an April letter to senators, AU State Legislative Counsel Dena Sher said, “This bill would harm Florida’s public-school students and lead to costly litigation. Florida’s students deserve better.”

The battle over creationism is far from over. “Academic freedom” legislation may have failed in Florida and Alabama, but measures are still being pushed in Louisiana, Missouri and other states.