Two years ago, at the conclusion of the last legislative session, we looked at each other and said: Wow, did that just happen? Did we really go for an entire session of the Texas Legislature without having to fight an anti-evolution bill? It’s true, we didn’t have to, because none were filed in 2015. It was the first time since TFN was founded in 1995 that we didn’t have to fight an anti-science bill. We could hardly believe it.
That was nice while it lasted. The streak has ended at 1.
Freshman state Rep. Valoree Swanson, R-Spring, last week filed House Bill 1485, which is written with language straight out of the creationism playbook. If signed into law, the legislation would give public school teachers the “academic freedom” to ask students to analyze “the scientific strengths and weaknesses” of the theory of evolution. So, if a teacher were to use their “academic freedom” to analyze their way into teaching something that sounds a lot like creationism (courts have ruled that teaching creationism or “intelligent design” in public school science classes violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment of the Constitution), that teacher would be protected from any consequences.
Let’s be clear: These kinds of proposals are not about “academic freedom,” they’re about academic fraud.
We guess we shouldn’t be surprised that this was filed. We’re now living under a presidential administration that has shown enormous contempt for science. And the Texas State Board of Education, also last week, ignored the recommendations of scholars and teachers when it took a preliminary vote to keep creationist arguments in the state’s science standards.
We also have to note that Swanson’s isn’t the only anti-science bill in the current legislative session. House Bill 420 by state Rep. James White, R-Hillister, would bar evidence of climate change from being used in fraud or deceptive practice state court cases. White’s bill is one part anti-science, one part protecting Exxon from litigation.
As always, we’ll keep you posted on where these bills go. You can stay updated by signing up for our legislative alerts.