Discussion of creationism in public school classrooms in Tennessee will now be permitted under a bill that passed the Republican-controlled state Legislature despite opposition from the state’s Republican governor.
The measure will allow classroom debates over evolution, permitting discussions of creationism alongside evolutionary teachings about the origins of life. Critics say the law, disparagingly called “The Monkey Bill,” will plunge Tennessee back to the divisive days of the notorious Scopes “Monkey Trial” in Dayton, Tenn., in 1925.
Gov. Bill Haslam refused Tuesday to sign the bill, saying it would create confusion over schools’ science curriculum. But the bill became law anyway. Haslam said he decided not to use his veto power, because the Legislature had the votes to override a veto. The measure passed by a 3-to-1 margin.
“Good legislation should bring clarity and not confusion,” Haslam said, according to Reuters. “My concern is that this bill has not met this objective.”
The governor added: “I don’t believe that it accomplishes anything that isn’t already acceptable in our schools.”
The state’s teachers are not allowed to raise alternatives to evolution but, under the new law, would be required to permit discussion of creationism and other beliefs if they are raised in class. The law would also permit discussion of challenges to such scientific conclusions as the man-made effects of climate change.
Any guesses as to how long before this gets litigious?
I wrote Gov. Haslam last week, noting that comedians like Jay Leno and David Letterman would soon be mocking Tennessee if the bill wasn’t vetoed. If anyone knows of mentions of the bill on comedy shows, post them here!