On Monday (January 23), the Senate in the state of Utah (USA) voted to give its approval to an amended version of a bill that dictates what state science teachers can discuss about the origins of human life. The bill now goes to the State House of Representatives for its vote.
The Senate initially approved the bill sponsored by State Senator Chris Buttars, but concern over a possible lawsuit by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) caused Buttars to amend the bill.
According to the Salt Lake Tribune (January 21), Buttars amended his bill on the Senate floor to explicitly say students should “consider opposing scientific viewpoints” and teachers should “stress that not all scientists agree on which scientific theory is correct.”
Buttars said in Utah’s Deseret Morning News (January 21) that the changes should satisfy the state chapter of the ACLU and other opponents that his motives are not primarily religious in nature.
Buttars said that he decided to sponsor the bill after parents called him to complain about teachers who were telling their children that they evolved from “some lower species.”
The amendment, however, didn’t satisfy the ACLU, reported the Salt Lake Tribune. The paper said that two ACLU attorneys who attended last Friday’s debate said the bill is “obviously fueled by a religious, not scientific, revulsion to Charles Darwin’s theory.” They contend that courts look not only at the letter of the law but the intent of lawmakers when determining if legislation is constitutional.
According to the Deseret Morning News, the ACLU compared the language used in this bill to the disclaimer stickers about evolution used in Cobb County, Georgia, textbooks which were found to contain an implicit religious message.
If the bill receives the approval of the House of Representatives, it then needs the signature of Gov. John Huntsman, Jr. However, some news reports have indicated that recent comments made on the Senate floor that commended God’s creation of man and condemned atheists for pushing their “religion” could potentially end up as evidence in court should the bill become law and be contested by the ACLU and others.