March 2015 Church & State | AU Bulletin

A South Dakota state senator’s bill that would have permitted the teaching of creationism and “intelligent design” in public school classrooms has died.

Marketed as an “academic freedom” bill, Sen. Jeff Monroe’s proposal would have prohibited local school boards from penalizing any teacher who decided to assist students “understand, analyze, critique, or review in an objective man­ner the scientific strengths and scientific weaknesses of existing scientific theories.”

The bill was rejected by the Senate Education Committee Feb. 10.

Monroe, a Pierre Republican, insisted that the bill was merely intended to spark classroom debate on the topic of the world’s origins and was not intended to promote creationism at the expense of sound scientific education.

Opponents were skeptical. They noted that the proposal was based on a model policy designed by the Discovery Institute, a neo-creationist outfit that often promotes intelligent design.

The National Center for Science Education’s Glenn Branch said that the bill would have extended protection to educators teaching creationism.

“It provides cover for, as you might say, rogue teachers,” Branch said. “We know most teachers won’t do this, but we know that there are some.”