An Arkansas Creationism Bill Has Failed To Evolve Into Law

  Rob Boston

There’s good news out of Arkansas for a change: A Senate committee vote killed a misguided bill promoting creationism in the state’s public schools.

As we noted on this blog recently, House Bill 1701, sponsored by state Rep. Mary Bentley (R-Perryville), was a real throwback: It would have allowed the teaching of creationism alongside evolution in science classes.

This “balanced treatment” approach has been invalidated by the U.S. Supreme Court and lower federal courts (including in a 1981 ruling from Arkansas), but that didn’t matter to Bentley. She believes the Supreme Court might be willing to change its mind.

But that unlikely scenario would leave Arkansas students woefully unprepared to understand modern biology. Bentley is doing the state’s youngsters no favors here. In a world where STEM skills (science, technology, engineering and math) are increasingly important gateways to good careers and success, her approach would leave the young people of Arkansas behind.

Bentley’s bill passed the Arkansas House of Representatives by a wide margin but ran into problems in the Senate. Two weeks ago, the Senate Education Committee deadlocked on it 3-3. For now, the bill is dead – the legislature has finished most of its work for the session, having gone Wednesday into an extended recess until it takes up redistricting later this year.

As Hemant Mehta of the “Friendly Atheist” blog noted, the debate over the bill was hardly inspiring. Some lawmakers backed creationism, and one even said the bill was unnecessary because creationism is already being taught in a school where a friend teaches (yikes!). But in the end, enough members of the committee voted the right way. It might have been an ugly win, but we’ll take it.

While there were few profiles in courage in Arkansas, it’s still good to see this dangerous bill die. Let’s hope it does not rise again.


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