Repeal effort revived again in Louisiana

Senate Bill 26 (PDF), prefiled in the Louisiana Senate on March 12, 2013, and provisionally referred to the Senate Committee on Education, would, if enacted, repeal Louisiana Revised Statutes 17:285.1, which implemented the so-called Louisiana Science Education Act, passed and enacted in 2008. The bill was introduced by Karen Carter Peterson (D-District 5), who sponsored the identical SB 70 in 2011 and SB 374 in 2012. The Senate Committee on Education voted 5-1 to shelve SB 70 in 2011 and voted 2-1 to shelve SB 374 in 2012; Zack Kopplin, the student who spearheaded the repeal effort, said in a March 18, 2013, press release, "We believe that this spring we can muster the votes we need to pass" the repeal bill.

The law targeted for repeal calls on state and local education administrators to help to promote "critical thinking skills, logical analysis, and open and objective discussion of scientific theories being studied including, but not limited to, evolution, the origins of life, global warming, and human cloning"; these four topics were described as controversial in the original draft of the legislation. It also allows teachers to use "supplemental textbooks and other instructional materials to help students understand, analyze, critique, and review scientific theories in an objective manner" if so permitted by their local school boards. A sponsor of the bill told the Hammond Daily Star (April 6, 2008) that the bill was aimed at promoting the discussion of "scientific data related to creationism."

Since 2008, antievolutionists have not only sought to undermine the law's provision allowing challenges to unsuitable supplementary materials but have also reportedly invoked the law to support proposals to teach creationism in at least two parishes — Livingston and Tangipahoa — and to attack the treatment of evolution in biology textbooks proposed for adoption by the state. Meanwhile, the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology urged Louisianans to repeal the law in 2008, and the Society of Integrative and Comparative Biology decided to hold its conferences elsewhere while the law remains on the books (relenting only in the case of New Orleans after the Orleans Parish School Board prohibited the teaching of creationism in its science classes).

Endorsers of the repeal effort include a group of seventy-eight Nobel laureates in the sciences (representing nearly 40% of living Nobel laureates in the science), the National Association of Biology Teachers, the Louisiana Association of Biology Educators, the Louisiana Coalition for Science, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Institute for Biological Sciences, the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, the American Society for Cell Biology, the Society for the Study of Evolution together with the Society of Systematic Biologists and the American Society of Naturalists, the Clergy Letter Project, the New Orleans City Council, and the Baton Rouge Advocate.