Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Louisiana Will Face Lawsuit If New Law Brings Religion Into Public School Science Classes, Says Americans United for Separation of Church and State

June 11, 2008

Church-State Watchdog Group Warns Against Using Anti-Evolution Legislation To Advance Fundamentalism In The Classroom

The Louisiana House of Representatives today approved a measure that opens the door to teaching creationism in public schools, an action that is likely to spark litigation, says Americans United for Separation of Church and State.

Approved by a 94-3 vote, the so-called “Science Education Act” (SB 733) allows public school teachers to use “supplemental materials” when discussing evolution.

Americans United and other groups contend that those “supplemental materials” are likely to be anti-evolution books, DVDs and other items produced by fundamentalist Christian ministries. The measure is being pushed by the Louisiana Family Forum, the Discovery Institute and other Religious Right forces.

“It’s time for Louisiana to step into the 21st century and stop trying to teach religion in public schools,” said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United. “Laws like this are an embarrassment.”

Lynn noted that Louisiana legislators have repeatedly tried to water down the teaching of evolution. In the 1980s, the state passed a law mandating “balanced treatment” between evolution and creationism. The measure was declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in 1987. Some parishes in Louisiana have voted to paste “disclaimers” in science books, casting doubt on evolution.

“If this new law is used to promote religion in Louisiana public schools, I can guarantee there will be legal action,” Lynn said. “Louisiana students deserve better, and Louisiana taxpayers should not have their money squandered on this losing effort.”

Americans United and allied organizations successfully brought a lawsuit against the teaching of “intelligent design” creationism in Dover, Pa., public schools in 2005. That case ended with the Dover school board being required to pay significant legal fees.

Louisiana’s new proposal would permit teachers to introduce “supplemental textbooks and other instructional materials” when studying evolution, global warming, human cloning and the origin of life.

The measure now returns to the state Senate, which has already approved a previous version of the bill.

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