A backer and a critic of a 2008 law on how science is taught in public schools clashed Monday, four days after lawmakers rejected a bill to repeal the measure.
Suzanne Passman, a home -school teacher in Baton Rouge, said the four-year-old law promotes academic freedom and allows a wide range of viewpoints in the classroom on the theory of evolution.
Passman said safeguards are included in the law.
“In other words you can’t bring religion into the classroom,” she told the Press Club of Baton Rouge.
But Barbara Forrest, a professor at Southeastern Louisiana University, called the law an embarrassment to the state.
“It makes us look like idiots down here,” said Forrest, who is co-founder of the Louisiana Coalition for Science.
Forrest said the measure only won approval because it was pushed by the Louisiana Family Forum, which she said is likely the most influential social issues lobby group at the State Capitol.
“We didn’t need a law for what teachers can teach about evolution,” she said.
The Louisiana Family Forum says it promotes traditional family values.
At issue is the Louisiana Science Education Act, which won overwhelming support from the Legislature in 2008.
Backers say the measure has paved the way for freewheeling classroom discussions on evolution and other topics, without teachers being fearful of reprisals.
Forrest and other critics say it will allow for the teaching of creationism — the view that life began about 6,000 years ago in a process described in the Bible’s Book of Genesis.
A bid to repeal the law was rejected on Thursday by the state Senate Education Committee, with one in favor and two opposed.
A similar push was rejected by the same committee last year.
Passman said that, despite predictions of economic fallout from enactment of the law, the state’s business climate has landed high marks in magazine rankings.
Forrest said only Tennessee has a law similar to the Louisiana measure.
She said the 2008 law is similar to one passed here in 1981, which was struck down in 1987 by the U.S. Supreme Court.
Others have noted that 78 Nobel laureate scientists support repeal of the law.
Passmann said the issue is gaining traction nationwide.
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