A Kentucky lawmaker seems to have given church-state separation advocates an early holiday gift: a promise not to push creationism in 2013.

Sen. Mike Wilson (R-Bowling Green) will be the new chair of the Senate Education Committee and he has been quick to state that even though he believes in creationism, he won’t try to force it into public schools.

“I have no plans for doing anything like that or focusing on that,” he told the Louisville Courier-Journal. “We already have a lot of things that we are working on in education ... more than enough to keep us busy.”

He’s absolutely right. All students who graduate from public high schools in Kentucky are required to take the ACT, a college entrance test that includes assessments of English, math, reading and science skills. In 2011, the state’s students ranked slightly below the national average in every category of the test. There’s certainly room for improvement, and learning about creationism isn’t going to help any student pass the science portion of the ACT. 

It should be noted that Wilson has been the general manager of a Christian radio station and has in the past advocated teaching creationism along with evolution in public schools.

But for the time being, at least, he says he isn’t going to let his personal religious beliefs drive his legislative agenda.

“Number one, I don’t think there’s sufficient support for [creationism bills] within the General Assembly,” he said. “Number two, I don’t think that’s the most important thing by any means that we need to be focused on right now.”

While this is very good news from Kentucky, the outlook isn’t so bright in several other states. We know for sure that lawmakers in Montana and Indiana will introduce bills next year intended to teach creationist concepts along with evolution. We don’t know how likely they are to pass, but we know this type of misguided legislation has strong backing in many states.   

Americans United will be closely watching all states and working to put a stop to any bills that undercut church-state separation.

As for Sen. Wilson, we appreciate this holiday gift. But why stop there? Maybe Wilson should spread his message to his peers in Montana and Indiana. 

P.S.: Tomorrow is Bill of Rights Day. Celebrate by recommitting to defending church-state separation and other principles guaranteed by the first ten amendments to the U.S. Constitution.