Antievolution bill loses in committee in Oklahoma

House Bill 1551, which would, if enacted, encourage teachers to present the "scientific strengths and scientific weaknesses" of "controversial" topics such as evolution, was rejected by the House Common Education Committee on February 22, 2011. The Oklahoman (February 23, 2011) reported Fred Jordan (R-District 69) as observing that the bill seems to be "opening the door for teachers to kind of say whatever they want to say, whether it's religious issues, creation, evolution ... I really feel like we're opening the door to where any and everything can come in." Similarly, David Grow, a retired zoologist at the Oklahoma City Zoo, told the newspaper that if the bill were passed, "they will be introducing intelligent design ideas and criticisms of evolution based on unfactual claims about evolution. ... This isn't about science; this is anti-evolution."

"The measure failed, 7-9, but it is not a final action," The Oklahoman reported, explaining that its sponsor, Sally Kern (R-District 84), "could ask the committee to bring it up again this session or next year." Kern is a persistent sponsor of antievolution legislation in Oklahoma, having sponsored a similar bill (HB 2107) and a similar resolution (HCR 1043) in 2006; neither passed. In the meantime, the antievolution bill in the Oklahoma Senate, SB 554, is still with the Senate Education Committee. A hybrid of the "academic freedom" antievolution strategy and the flawed Texas state science standards, SB 554 was introduced by Josh Brecheen (R-District 6), who described it in the Durant Daily Democrat (December 24, 2010) as "requiring every publically funded Oklahoma school to teach the debate of creation vs. evolution."