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News Media Going Ape with Misinformation about Tennessee Academic Freedom Bill

Yesterday I predicted that despite the fact that an academic freedom bill in Tennessee includes clear language specifying that it does NOT protect the teaching of religion, critics will “ignore the actual language of the bill and falsely claim it would introduce religion in the classroom.” Now, a flurry of news articles shows that my prediction was all too correct. The news today is full of stories making false claims that the bill would promote creationism. For example:

  • The Guardian writes that the bill “comes at a time when science associations are increasingly concerned by moves to inject religious or ideological beliefs into science teaching…”
  • The Huffington Post has two pieces, one with the outlandish title “Tennessee Science Bill Allowing Discussion of Creationism in Schools Passes State Senate,” and another that states the bill would bring “religious doctrine within the public school system.”
  • carries a piece titled “Tennessee Bill to Push Creationism in Schools,” which states: “Tennessee lawmakers have revived a scary bill that would open the door to promotion of creationism in public schools.”
  • The Times Daily, a Tennessee paper, has an op-ed claiming the bill is “is a ploy to subvert science in favor of theology” where “Critics of the bills say the door is being opened in Tennessee schools for teaching religious views.”
  • And the far-left has a sky-is-falling piece stating: “Critics call it a ‘monkey bill’ that promotes creationism in classrooms.”

Just as I told you would happen, critics have one and only one talking point against the academic freedom bill: that it would promote “creationism,” “theology,” and “religious doctrine” in public schools. Let’s remind ourselves of what the bill actually says:

This section only protects the teaching of scientific information, and shall not be construed to promote any religious or non-religious doctrine, promote discrimination for or against a particular set of religious beliefs or non-beliefs, or promote discrimination for or against religion or non-religion.

What part of “This section only protects the teaching of scientific information” or “shall not be construed to promote any religious or non-religious doctrine” do these critics not understand? It’s not possible for “creationism,” “theology,” and “religious doctrine” to be protected under this bill.

When critics have to resort to falsehoods to oppose a bill, you know that something else is going on. In this case, the “something else” is that Darwin defenders and their allies want to censor and hide from students any scientific views that challenge Darwinian evolution and other controversial scientific theories.

This debate is not about whether religion will be brought into the classroom. It won’t. The debate is over whether legitimate dissenting minority scientific viewpoints will be censored, or tolerated.