Antiscience legislation in Colorado

House Bill 13-1089 (PDF), introduced in the Colorado House of Representatives on January 16, 2013, and assigned to the House Committees on Education and Appropriations, would create "Academic Freedom Acts" for both K-12 public schools and institutes of higher education in the state of Colorado. If enacted, the bill would, in the words of the summary, "direct teachers to create an environment that encourages students to intelligently and respectfully explore scientific questions and learn about scientific evidence related to biological and chemical evolution, global warming, and human cloning."

HB 13-1089 is a typical instance of the "academic freedom" strategy for undermining the teaching of evolution. As NCSE's Glenn Branch, Eugenie C. Scott, and Joshua Rosenau explained in 2010, such bills tacitly license and encourage teachers "to miseducate students about evolution, whether by teaching creationism as a scientifically credible alternative or merely by misrepresenting evolution as scientifically controversial." The effect on the teaching of climate change is similar. Colorado's new bill is unusual in targeting higher education as well as K-12 education, however.

The primary sponsors of HB 13-1089 are Stephen Humphrey (R-District 48) in the House and Scott Renfroe (R-District 13) in the Senate — in Colorado, bills in either house of the legislature will have a sponsor in the other house. Listed as cosponsors are Perry Buck (R-District 49), Justin Everett (R-District 22), Chris Holbert (R-District 44), Janak Joshi (R-District 16), Dan Nordberg (R-District 14), Lori Saine (R-District 63), and James D. Wilson (R-District 60) in the House, and Kevin Grantham (R-District 2), Ted Harvey (R-District 30), and Owen Hill (R-District 10) in the Senate.

HB 13-1089 is possibly the first antievolution measure introduced in the Colorado state legislature since 1972, when House Concurrent Resolution 1011 would have put a measure on the state ballot to amend the state constitution to require "equal time" for creationism in the state's public schools and institutes of higher education, with the intention of "allowing all students and teachers academic freedom of choice as to which of these two theories, creation or evolution, they wish to choose." HCR 1011 was indefinitely postponed by the House Judiciary Committee.