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Indiana House panel leader leery of creationism bill

February 7, 2012

The leader of the Indiana House Education Committee said Tuesday a proposal specifically allowing public schools to teach creationism alongside evolution in science classes could be unworkable.

The bill approved by the state Senate would permit local school districts to add teaching of creationism as long as it included origin of life theories from multiple religions including Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism and Scientology.

Education committee Chairman Robert Behning, R-Indianapolis, said that requirement would probably stop most school districts from even considering the subject.

"I think it's almost impossible to find somebody who would know about all those different theories of creation," he said.

Behning said he personally believed in creationism and didn't think anything in current state law prevented local schools from adding it to their classes.

Critics argue that the proposal is unconstitutional since federal courts repeatedly have found teaching creationism violates church-state separation because of its reliance on the Bible's book of Genesis. Supporters in the Senate, which approved the bill last week in a 28-22 vote, say the broader religious reference improves the bill's chances of being ruled constitutional.

Behning said he wasn't sure yet whether his committee would take up the bill during this year's legislative session that is to end by mid-March.

Many parents who want their children to learn about creationism also have the option of sending their children to private schools with state-supported vouchers under a law that legislators approved last year, he said.

The House could revise the creationism bill to remove the requirement of teaching theories from multiple religions. Democratic Sen. Vi Simpson of Bloomington proposed that change in the Senate with the aim of making it clear that schools couldn't just teach Christian creation theory.

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