West Virginia's "intelligent design" bill mutates and advances

West Virginia State Capitol.

The West Virginia Senate Committee on Education passed Senate Bill 280, a bill threatening the integrity of science education in the state's public schools, on January 17, 2024.

As originally introduced, Senate Bill 280 provided that "[t]eachers in public schools, including public charter schools, that include any one or more of grades kindergarten through 12, may teach intelligent design as a theory of how the universe and/or humanity came to exist."

(In 2023, a similar bill, Senate Bill 619, passed the Senate before dying in the House Education Committee when the legislature adjourned sine die. After the bill passed the Senate, it sparked a national outcry, as NCSE previously reported.)

What the Senate Committee on Education passed as Senate Bill 280, however, was a substitute providing that "[n]o public school board, school superintendent, or school principal shall prohibit a public school classroom teacher from discussing or answering questions from students about scientific theories of how the universe and/or life came to exist."

On its face, the substitute version of the bill, unlike the original, offers no comfort to creationists, since neither "creation science" nor "intelligent design" is recognized by the scientific community as a genuine scientific theory.

Moreover, proposals to incorporate "creation science" and "intelligent design" in public schools have not survived constitutional scrutiny in federal courts, in cases such as McLean v. Arkansas (1982) and Kitzmiller v. Dover (2005).

Senate Bill 280 received its first reading in the Senate on January 18, 2024, and is on its third reading now; it is apparently not yet scheduled for a floor vote.

Glenn Branch
Short Bio

Glenn Branch is Deputy Director of NCSE.