Pop quiz: name the state that still has, officially on the books, an “equal time” provision for creationism, in defiance of the 1987 Supreme Court decision Edwards v. Aguillard and much additional case law? No, not Alabama, although they do still have Evolution Warning Labels mandated in all biology textbooks.
That’s right, it’s Kentucky, future home of the $25 million dollar creationism museum run by Answers in Genesis. We are actually coming up on the 15th anniversiary of Kentucky Revised Statute 158.177, which has been in place since July 13, 1990. If you don’t believe me, read this article in the Cincinnati Enquirer.
The Enquirer quotes the statute, which I reproduce below:
Kentucky Revised Statute 158.177
(1) In any public school instruction concerning the theories of the creation of man and the earth, and which involves the theory thereon commonly known as evolution, any teacher so desiring may include as a portion of such instruction the theory of creation as presented in the Bible, and may accordingly read such passages in the Bible as are deemed necessary for instruction on the theory of creation, thereby affording students a choice as to which such theory to accept.
(2) For those students receiving such instruction, and who accept the Bible theory of creation, credit shall be permitted on any examination in which adherence to such theory is propounded, provided the response is correct according to the instruction received.
(3) No teacher in a public school may stress any particular denominational religious belief.
(4) This section is not to be construed as being adverse to any decision which has been rendered by any court of competent jurisdiction.
Effective: July 13, 1990
Source: Kentucky Legislature
Now, this is really vintage creationism – no euphemisms or anything: no “scientific creationism,” “creation science,” “intelligent design,” “weaknesses of evolution,” “evolution is a theory, not fact,” etc. Just read the kids Genesis in biology class – it’s actually rather refreshing in a perverse kind of way. The language in this law dates back to the days when men were men, creationists were creationists, and dinosaurs walked the earth with men according to the creationists. (This was about 1976, apparently, which was when the first version of the bill was passed. It was revised in 1990, probably in a half-hearted attempt to dodge Edwards in the event the law was challenged, which I guess it wasn’t.)
Fortunately, at least some of the people in Kentucky see this bill as a problem:
Dr. Chris Lorentz, associate professor of biology at Thomas More College, said all biology courses there are based on the theory of evolution.
He said teachers would be doing a disservice to students by not talking about creationism, but he doesn’t see much point in debating the two since one is based on science and the other on faith.
“The theory of evolution is the most plausible theory. A theory in science literally means a well-tested hypothesis with ample amounts of evidence,” Lorentz said. “But when you say God created life on Earth - you can’t test that.”
It is worth adding that it is clear from the the article that this bill is not some ignored anachronism, like the laws you occasionally hear about banning certain kinds of bathtubs. Based on the article, this law is apparently recognized by the Kentucky Department of Education and they have no objection when teachers teach creationist pseudoscience (correction: make that illegal creationist pseudoscience) in biology classes. Never mind the Constitution or the bit about “education” in “Department of Education.”
Have we any Kentucky readers? What do you think about this situation? There must be some Kentucky bloggers out there. What do you think about the fact that Kentucky will soon be the world headquarters of young-earth creationism, between this law and AiG museum? It might be worth forwarding links to the Enquirer article and/or this post to your friends, neighbors, and acquaintances. Looking up the Kentucky Legislature and the Kentucky ACLU might not be a bad idea either.
William Croyle (2005). “Science, faith get equal play in classroom”. Cincinnati Enquirer, February 14, 2005. http://news.enquirer.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20050214/NEWS0102/502140333/-1/back01
(Concerned individuals might also email me at NCSE – matzkeATncseweb.org)