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Just the facts

"Just the facts" Continued...

Issue: "Home again," July 12, 2008

ACLU director Esman admits that if the law "works as it should, it shouldn't be a problem." But she worries that it may leave room "for things to get sneaked into the classroom that shouldn't be there." That suspicion is shared among many of the bill's detractors, who point out the religious motivation of such supportive groups as the Louisiana Family Forum, an evangelical organization with strong ties to Focus on the Family and the Family Research Council.

But supporters counter that many of the bill's opponents maintain strong atheistic commitments, a correlation given far less publicity or credence in major media reporting. Indeed, much of the public campaigning and calls to arms against the legislation played out on evolutionary biologist and popular science author Richard Dawkins' pro-atheist website. West contends that all such religious motivations for passing new laws are irrelevant in assessing the legality and value of the policy: "Should we repeal all the civil rights laws because lots of American Christians supported them? That's a preposterous argument. The most important thing is what the law actually says."

Letter of the law

Key elements of the Louisiana Science Education Act

  • Requires the state board of education to support the wishes of a local school board if it requests assistance in helping teachers and administrators promote critical analysis and open scientific discussion of theories related to evolution, origins of life, global warming, and human cloning.
  • Requires that such assistance from the state board include guidance for teachers in developing effective methods to help students analyze and critique scientific theories.
  • Requires that a teacher first present material in the school system's standard textbook before bringing in additional resources for further analysis and scientific critique.
  • Prohibits any promotion of religious doctrine or discrimination for or against religious beliefs, religion, or nonreligion.

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