Antievolution legislation in Missouri

House Bill 179, introduced in the Missouri House of Representatives on January 16, 2013, and not yet referred to a committee, is the latest antievolution bill in the Missouri state legislature. The bill would, if enacted, call on state and local education administrators to "endeavor to create an environment within public elementary and secondary schools 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, including biological and chemical evolution" and to "endeavor to assist teachers to find more effective ways to present the science curriculum where it addresses scientific controversies." "Toward this end," the bill continues, "teachers shall be permitted to help students understand, analyze, critique, and review in an objective manner the scientific strengths and scientific weaknesses of the theory of biological and hypotheses of chemical evolution."

"It's ironic that creationist strategies continue to evolve," commented NCSE's executive director Eugenie C. Scott. "At first, creationists tried to ban the teaching of evolution in the public schools altogether. When they were no longer able to do so, they tried to 'balance' it with the teaching of Biblical creationism, or scientific creationism, or intelligent design. After the Kitzmiller trial in 2005, in which teaching intelligent design was found by a federal court to be unconstitutional, there's been a shift toward belittling evolution — as just a theory, or as in need of critical analysis, or as the subject of scientific controversy." She explained that over forty bills adopting the tactic of encouraging teachers to misrepresent evolution as controversial have been introduced in the last decade, successfully in Louisiana in 2008 and in Tennessee in 2012. Scott added, "The sponsors of House Bill 179 will doubtless claim that there are good reasons for it. Missourians concerned with the integrity of science education are going to be skeptically replying: show me."

Andrew Koenig (R-District 99) is the main sponsor of HB 179; its cosponsors are Kurt Bahr (R-District 102), Galen Higdon (R-District 11), Doug Funderburk (R-District 103), Paul Curtman (R-District 109), Rick Brattin (R-District 55), David Wood (R-District 58), Steve Cookson (R-District 153), Charlie Davis (R-District 162), Joe Don McGaugh (R-District 39), and Scott Fitzpatrick (R-District 158). The text of HB 179 is identical to the text of HB 1276 in 2012; Koenig, Funderburk, Brattin, and Davis were among its sponsors. Koenig, Bahr, and Brattin were also among the sponsors of HB 1227 in 2012, which if enacted would have required "the equal treatment of science instruction regarding evolution and intelligent design" in both public elementary and secondary schools and introductory science courses in public institutions of higher education in Missouri. Brattin, in discussing HB 1227 with the Kansas City Star (January 14, 2012), invoked "a Gallup poll that shows 90 percent of Americans believe in a higher power." Both HB 1276 and HB 1227 died in committee in May 2012.