Creationism bill advanced in Arkansas

Arkansas's House Bill 1701 (PDF) passed the House of Representatives on a 72-21 vote on April 7, 2021, after passing the House Education Committee on a voice vote on April 6, 2021. If enacted, the bill would allow teachers in the state's public and open-enrollment charter schools to "teach creationism as a theory of how the earth came to exist."

The bill is sponsored by Mary Bentley (R-District 73), who previously introduced House Bill 2050, which would have allowed "public schools to teach creationism and intelligent design as theories alongside the theory of evolution," in 2017. Speaking on the House floor on behalf of her bill, Bentley approvingly cited scientists who, she claimed, believe in "biblical creation."

The federal courts — including in McLean v. Arkansas (1982) — have repeatedly held that teaching creationism in the public schools is unconstitutional, as Deborah Ferguson (D-District 51) reminded Bentley. Bentley responded by expressing the hope that, with changes in the composition of the Supreme Court, her bill might survive constitutional scrutiny.

Glenn Branch
Short Bio

Glenn Branch is Deputy Director of NCSE.