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Monday, April 14, 2008

Florida Follow-Up ("Academic Freedom Act")

On Friday, just days after the state Senate judiciary committee voted 6-3 (along partisan lines) in favor of a new bill that would allow teachers to "present scientific information relevant to the full range of views on biological and chemical evolution," the House version of the bill cleared the House Schools & Learning Council on a 7-4 vote (also along party lines). This bill would allow teachers to give students a "thorough presentation and critical analysis of the scientific theory of evolution." (The bill was changed significantly from the original version introduced by Republican Representative Alan Hays, and the changes were different from those made on the Senate version of the bill by the Committee on Education Pre-K–12.) Like Senator Ronda Storms, who introduced the Senate bill, Hays says the House bill is needed to protect the views of those who question or criticize evolution. But opponents of the bill, which include many Florida teachers and scientists, say there is no evidence that such persecution exists and see the bill as a stealth attempt to bring religious theories like "intelligent design" into the science classroom. The bill will now go to the House Budget & Policy Council. —Heather Wax