A bill that would have allowed public school science teachers to “teach creationism as a theory of how the earth came to exist” has been narrowly defeated in the State Senate. The Senate Education Committee split 3-3 on advancing the bill, which means it will not go to the full Senate for a vote.
It comes two weeks after the Arkansas State House voted 72-21 in favor of the wildly anti-scientific bill. (All the yes votes came from Republicans; all the no votes came from Democrats.)
The bill was the work of State Rep. Mary Bentley, a Republican, who filed HB 1701 last month.
The short bill defied (or completely ignored) the Supreme Court’s ruling against the teaching of Creationism since everyone knows it’s all about advancing religion instead of teaching credible science. We know the Earth doesn’t exist because God poofed it into being a few thousand years ago. Bentley didn’t care. This was her attempt to shove her religion into public schools.
Bentley tried doing this in 2017, too, but got nowhere with it. That bill died in the House. The current version passed the House but thankfully failed to jump the next hurdle. (Bentley is a graduate of Harding College, a Church of Christ-affiliated school, so science education isn’t in her wheelhouse.)
The discussion during their debate wasn’t any cause for cheer. One lawmaker said the bill was unnecessary because a teacher friend of his already taught Creationism alongside evolution. (That raises so many questions…) Another said we were better educated decades ago when teaching Creationism was mandatory. Another said the bill was unnecessary because teaching Creationism cheapened his faith by suggesting it was bound by the rules of science.
None of those lawmakers said the bill should fail because religion has no place in the classroom and evolution is settled science.
But because a majority of the committee didn’t vote for the bill to advance, it’s dead. For now.
The National Center for Science Education celebrated the defeat:
“Arkansas just dodged a bullet,” NCSE’s Executive Director Ann Reid commented. “The passage of House Bill 1701 would have not only put the scientific literacy of Arkansas’s students in jeopardy but also subjected the state to national derision, as its precursor Act 590 did in 1981, and provoked a needless trial with a foregone conclusion.”
There’s a lot to criticize in Arkansas. But as of today, a bill permitting the teaching of Creationism in science class isn’t going to be one of them.
(Screenshot via YouTube. Large portions of this article were published earlier)