Oklahoma Legislator Introduces Yet Another Bill to Permit Teaching of Creationism in Public Schools

Oklahoma State Senator Josh Brecheen has been trying since 2010 to push Creationism into the state’s public schools, and his latest attempt, SB 1322, hides its true intentions by calling for the creation of the “Oklahoma Science Education Act.”

It’s a Science Education Act that would miseducate students about science.


Here’s what the bill, which was introduced yesterday, says:

The State Board of Education, school district boards of education, school district superintendents and school principals shall endeavor to create an environment within public school districts that encourages students to explore scientific questions, learn about scientific evidence, develop critical thinking skills and respond appropriately and respectfully to differences of opinion about controversial issues.

… Teachers shall be permitted to help students understand, analyze, critique and review in an objective manner the scientific strengths and scientific weaknesses of existing scientific theories covered in the course being taught.

Neither the State Board of Education, nor any school district board of education, school district superintendent or school principal shall prohibit any teacher in a public school district in this state from helping students understand, analyze, critique and review in an objective manner the scientific strengths and weaknesses of existing scientific theories covered in the course being taught.

All of that sounds great. Of course we want students to think critically, and explore scientific questions, and discuss controversies in the field. But we also don’t want their minds so open that their brains fall out. And Brecheen knows damn well that this is the sort of language evolution-deniers use to get Creationism into the classroom using a backdoor approach.

The problem with this bill is that phrase “controversial issues.” Who gets to decide what’s controversial? Because acceptance of evolution is rock-solid among scientists in the field. Just because an evangelical Christian pastor disagrees doesn’t make it controversial.

Brecheen attempts to ward off these kinds of criticisms by adding in his bill:

This section only protects the teaching of scientific information and shall not be construed to promote any religious or non-religious doctrine, promote discrimination for or against a particular set of religious beliefs or non-beliefs or promote discrimination for or against religion or non-religion.

See? It’s not religious at all!

Except that’s the same tactic used by Intelligent Design proponents who promoted Creationism without explicitly saying the word God. You can say that’s not religious, but it’s also not science.

The National Center for Science Education has a detailed report of Brecheen’s previous (and thankfully failed) attempts at pushing this into law and explains right off the bat how this would ruin science education in the state:

SB 1322 would, if enacted, in effect encourage science teachers with idiosyncratic opinions to teach anything they pleased — proponents of creationism and climate change denial are the usual intended beneficiaries of such bills — and discourage responsible educational authorities from intervening.

Brecheen has made several public statements regarding how he wants to dismantle the teaching of evolution. Just because he doesn’t explicitly say that anymore doesn’t mean he’s had a change of heart.

His previous attempts all died in committee. Let’s hope this is no different.

(Image via Shutterstock. Thanks to Randy for the link)

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.