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Oklahoma House Passes Academic Freedom Act by Overwhelming Margin

John G. West


Striking a blow for academic freedom in the discussion of scientific controversies, the Oklahoma House of Representatives passed the “Scientific Education and Academic Freedom Act” (HB 1551) on Thursday evening by an overwhelming vote of 56-12. The measure now awaits consideration by the Oklahoma Senate.

The bill notes that its protections are needed because “some teachers may be unsure of the expectations concerning how they should present information on some subjects such as, but not limited to, biological evolution, the chemical origins of life, global warming, and human cloning.”

The bill would safeguard the rights of both teachers and students. With regard to teachers, it states that they “shall be permitted to help students understand, analyze, critique, and review in an objective manner the scientific strengths and scientific weaknesses of existing scientific theories pertinent to the course being taught.” With regard to students, the measure states that they “may be evaluated based upon their understanding of course materials, but no student in any public school or institution shall be penalized in any way because the student may subscribe to a particular position on scientific theories.”

Contrary to the false claims of critics in the Darwin lobby, the bill would not promote religion in the science classroom. Indeed, the bill explicitly states:

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. The intent of the provisions of the act is to create an environment in which both the teacher and students can openly and objectively discuss the facts and observations of science.

John G. West

Senior Fellow, Managing Director, and Vice President of Discovery Institute
Dr. John G. West is Vice President of the Seattle-based Discovery Institute and Managing Director of the Institute’s Center for Science and Culture. Formerly the Chair of the Department of Political Science and Geography at Seattle Pacific University, West is an award-winning author and documentary filmmaker who has written or edited 12 books, including Darwin Day in America: How Our Politics and Culture Have Been Dehumanized in the Name of Science, The Magician’s Twin: C. S. Lewis on Science, Scientism, and Society, and Walt Disney and Live Action: The Disney Studio’s Live-Action Features of the 1950s and 60s. His documentary films include Fire-Maker, Revolutionary, The War on Humans, and (most recently) Human Zoos. West holds a PhD in Government from Claremont Graduate University, and he has been interviewed by media outlets such as CNN, Fox News, Reuters, Time magazine, The New York Times, USA Today, and The Washington Post.

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academic freedomDarwinDavid Coppedgeevolutionintelligent designJet Propulsion LaboratoryLocalNASANationNewsOklahomaPoliticstrialWilliam Becker