Rep. Kern clarifies science education bill, denies it endorses religion

Kern told Oklahoma Gazette the release is to respond to concerns she has been hearing that her bill is “anti-evolution.”

Both Kern and Sen. Josh Brecheen, R-Coalgate, filed bills before the deadline that address science education. Brecheen’s is SB 554.

“Legislation filed by state Rep. Sally Kern would ensure school policies allow for a full and robust discussion of scientific issues and promote critical thinking skills,” the release reads. She said the intent of the bill is allow teachers and students to fully discuss scientific theories, including criticisms of “Darwinian evolution.”

Kern’s release goes on to explain that the bill is to protect teachers and students from recrimination for having these full discussions.

It reads, “At the same time, teachers and students should be free to discuss critiques of the theory and no student should ever be penalized for personal views on this issue. This legislation would simply make clear that schools should not attempt to discourage scientific inquiry, discussion, or debate.”

Critics of Kern’s bill, including Americans United for Separation of Church and State and Oklahomans for Excellence in Science Education, believe the bill is yet another attempt to wedge intelligent design or creationism into science classrooms.

Addressing its concerns that Kern’s HB 1551 and Sen. Brecheen’s SB 554 both depend on the notion of “scientific controversy,” OESC released its own statement: “Promoting the notion that there is some scientific controversy is just plain dishonest. … Evolution as a process is supported by an enormous and continually growing body of evidence. Evolutionary theory has advanced substantially since Darwin’s time and, despite 150 years of direct research, no evidence in conflict with evolution has ever been found.”

Nick Singer, vice president of AU Oklahoma, expressed concern that intelligent design, widely believed in the scientific community to be a Trojan horse for creationism, is the competing theory both legislators want to protect.

“Mudding things up by trying to blend a specific religion’s writings with evidence-based science is unconstitutional and misrepresents the facts being taught in the class,” Singer said. “In no other subject would we consider teaching a concept that is not based on either scientific evidence or historical facts — this is different from holy book interpretations.”

Kern said her bill clearly states that it is not an endorsement of any religious belief. HB 1551, Section 2, Para. E, reads: “The provisions of the Scientific Education and Academic Freedom Act shall only protect the teaching of scientific information, and shall not be construed to promote any religious or nonreligious doctrine, promote discrimination for or against a particular set of religious beliefs or nonbeliefs, or promote discrimination for or against religion or nonreligion.”

Oklahoma Gazette will have full coverage of the story, including the Feb. 2 issue.

Greg Horton

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