Creationist Legislation in Indiana

Creationist Legislation in Indiana December 30, 2011

I often try to do what I can to help support those in other states who try to defend science education against those who seek to undermine it, even though state legislators are largely deaf to anyone but their own constituents. Today, news about legislation being proposed here in Indiana came to my attention, via the NCSE. First, here’s the news item:


Senate Bill 89, prefiled in the Indiana Senate and referred to the

Committee on Education and Career Development, would, if enacted,

amend the Indiana Code to provide that “[t]he governing body of a

school corporation may require the teaching of various theories

concerning the origin of life, including creation science, within the

school corporation.” The sponsor of the bill is Dennis Kruse

(R-District 14), who chairs the Senate Committee on Education and

Career Development. In 1999, while serving in the Indiana House of

Representatives, Kruse pledged to introduce a law to remove evolution

from the state’s science standards, according to the South Bend

Tribune (August 27, 1999). Instead, however, he introduced bills with

the same wording as Senate Bill 89, House Bill 1356 in 2000 and House

Bill 1323 in 2001. Both died in committee.

“The obvious problem,” commented NCSE’s executive director Eugenie C.

Scott, “is that the Indiana legislature can’t authorize a school

district to violate the Constitution. And the Supreme Court held, in

its 1987 decision in Edwards v. Aguillard, that it’s unconstitutional

for creation science to be taught in the public schools.” She added,

“It’s disturbing that a veteran legislator like Kruse is ignorant of

— or indifferent to — the blatant unconstitutionality of his bill.”

The most recent antievolution bill in Indiana, 2006’s House Bill 1388,

was aimed at supposed errors in textbooks, although its sponsor had

previously announced his intention to introduce legislation requiring

the teaching of “intelligent design” in the state’s public schools; HB

1388 died in committee. The current legislative session resumes on

January 4, 2012.

For the text of SB 89 as introduced, visit:

For the text of HB 1356, HB 1323, and HB 1388, visit:

And for NCSE’s previous coverage of events in Indiana, visit:

The next question is, what can be done about it. The answer is, write to your local senator if you are a resident of Indiana. Here is what I wrote to mine:

Dear Senator Schneider,

I am writing to express my concern about Senate Bill No.89 which has recently been introduced, attempting to allow the teaching of what it calls “creation science” in schools.

I am disturbed by this for a number of reasons. First, as a teenager, I was taken in by so-called “creation science” and while I was fortunate enough to learn more about the subject and to have pointed out where this movement was making false claims, others may not be so fortunate. So-called “creation science” is at odds with the scientific understanding of the history of life on this planet, as Christian biologists, paleontologists and others with relevant expertise almost unanimously agree.

I am also disturbed by this legislation because, both as a professor who teaches Biblical studies at Butler University, and as a Christian involved in teaching Sunday school at Crooked Creek Baptist Church where I am a member (and, until the end of the year, church moderator), I know that what “creation science” claims about the Bible is every bit as mistaken and in error as what it claims about science.

“Creation science” does serious harm to Christianity, making it seem to be a faith whose adherents are ready to lie, mislead, or give gullible assent to charlatans. It also persuades many people to believe that they must choose between modern science and their faith, and if they ever learn that modern science is correct on points that young-earth creationists dispute, they often then lose their faith, unnecessarily.

But even setting aside such concerns, the teaching of creationism has already been declared a violation of the separation of church and state, and so the introduction of a bill that will inevitably be disputed and overturned even if passed is a waste of time and money. And even if the teaching of religious views about creation were to be allowed in public schools, which ones should be taught? We have significant Hindu, Muslim, and other religious populations here in Indianapolis, as well as Christians who disagree with “creation science” on scientific and Biblical grounds. Are we to make time for teaching about all those views in science classes? Ought the focus in science classes not to be on that which can be studied scientifically? Science is open to people of all faiths, and those of none, precisely because it uses a shared set of tools and methods which can be used by anyone, focusing on studying and making sense of the evidence. That approach to knowledge is incredibly effective, and it is important not to allow the education of our state’s children in the methods and conclusions of the natural sciences to be interfered with.

I sincerely hope that you will oppose this legislation. I will gladly provide more information about the relevant data from the natural sciences and Biblical studies, or recommend further reading on these subjects, should you find that helpful.

Yours sincerely,

Dr. James F. McGrath

Clarence L. Goodwin Chair in New Testament Language and Literature

Butler University

Feel free to borrow from what I wrote in writing your own letter, if that will be helpful.

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