Louisiana Academic Freedom Act
| Insidious legislation|
Teach the controversy
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The Louisiana Academic Freedom Act (or Louisiana Science Education Act) is the first, and until the passage of the Tennessee monkey bill only, creationist "Academic Freedom Act" to become law in any state in the US. Senate Bill 561 was introduced on March 31, 2008, and was signed into law by Louisiana Governor Piyush Jindal on June 25 of the same year.
Origins and history
The Louisiana act is not on the same lineage as the Discovery Institute's model bill, but instead is based on a 2006 policy adopted by the Ouachita Parish School Board with the backing of the creationist Louisiana Family Forum. Senate Bill 561 was introduced by Democrat and Education Committee chair Ben Nevers on March 31. On 21 April the identical House Bill 1168 was introduced by Republican Frank Hoffman, who was the assistant superintendent of Ouachita Parish at the time the policy there was adopted.
On the following day the Senate bill was amended to remove some of the anti-evolution parts and renamed the "Louisiana Science Education Act" (and renumbered to SB733). This passed the Senate unanimously on April 28. The House bill was passed 94-3 on June 11, and the law was signed by Governor Jindal on the 25th of June despite his former genetics professor and others imploring him to veto it.
The act, as signed by Jindal, self describes as being to "promote students' critical thinking skills" in secondary and elementary schools. It requires that the state Board of Education "allow and assist" educators who wish to "create and foster an environment...that promotes critical thinking skills, logical analysis, and open and objective discussion of scientific theories being studied". Which would be all very well if creationism wasn't a thing, and if the sentence didn't continue:
[...]including, but not limited to, evolution, the origins of life, global warming, and human cloning.
The listed topics are, of course, all targets of the right's War on Science. The last one - human cloning - is also out of place here as it isn't even a 'theory'.
The bill also allows the use of "supplemental textbooks and other instructional materials" for the above purpose by teachers, "unless otherwise prohibited" by the board. This could mean, for example, that the SBOE would have to explicitly ban a given creationist textbook to prevent a teacher from utilising it to teach creationism in the guise of "promote[ing] students' critical thinking skills".
There is an ongoing, as yet unsuccessful attempt to repeal the act. Zack Kopplin, a (now-former) Louisiana high school student, linked up with Barbara Forrest and worked on a repeal bill as his senior project. Despite widespread support, including more than 70 Nobel laureates, he still hasn't been successful. This is possibly due to the fact that the American media focuses more on the input of politicians and media figures on scientific issues such as climate change, and rarely, if ever, consults qualified scientists.
As of March of 2012 a new repeal effort has been announced by Kopplin, now claiming 75 laureates in support.
- Louisiana, 2008
- NCSE copy SB561 - 2008 Regular Session
- NCSE's copy of bill
- And biology major, for goodness sake.
- History of SB733
- Louisiana passes first antievolution "academic freedom" law
- List of endorsements
- 71 Nobel Laureates Call for a Repeal of the LSEA
- Media Matters: Climate Coverage Plummets On Broadcast Networks 16 April 2012
- Repeal effort revived in Louisiana