ACLU of Tennessee calls for "monkey bill" veto

"Tennessee is dangerously close to enacting a law that would gut science education in public schools," writes the executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee in the Knoxville News-Sentinel (April 5, 2012). Hedy Weinberg is warning, of course, of House Bill 368, which passed the Tennessee legislature and is now on Governor Bill Haslam's desk. If enacted, HB 368 would encourage teachers to present the "scientific strengths and scientific weaknesses" of topics that arouse "debate and disputation" such as "biological evolution, the chemical origins of life, global warming, and human cloning."

Arguing that "this legislation seeks to subvert scientific principle to religious ideology by granting legal cover to teachers who wish to dress up religious beliefs on the origin of life as pseudo-science," Weinberg observes, "Prestigious scientific and educational organizations, including the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Institute of Biological Sciences, the National Earth Science Teachers Association and the Tennessee Science Teachers Association, agree that there is no scientific controversy regarding the theory of evolution, only a political controversy that does not belong in the science classroom."

Weinberg concludes, "This legislation is the latest line of attack against evolution in a long-standing campaign waged by certain religious interests to promote creationism and intelligent design in Tennessee public schools. As the Supreme Court has stated, families 'entrust public schools with the education of their children, but condition their trust on the understanding that the classroom will not purposely be used to advance religious views that may conflict with the private beliefs of the student and his or her family.' This legislation represents a betrayal of that trust and, accordingly, Haslam must veto it."