Lawmakers consider bill requiring schools explore evidence on evolution

By Elizabeth Hagedorn

A Missouri lawmaker defended legislation before a House committee Wednesday that would encourage public elementary and secondary school teachers to teach differing theories of evolution.

While the bill doesn’t mandate teaching creationism, it does call on educators to examine the “strengths and weaknesses” of evolutionary theory and prohibits schools from barring them from doing so.

The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Andrew Koenig, R-Manchester, said most textbooks are one-sided when it comes to teaching evolution. He said his bill would empower teachers and allow for greater academic freedom in the classroom.

“Many teachers are afraid to teach criticisms of scientific theories out of fear of losing their jobs,” Koenig said.

Rep. Jeff Roorda, R-Barnhart, expressed concerned that the bill was legislating curriculum.

“We ought to let this issue evolve slowly,” Roorda said.

Spokespersons from the Discovery Institute, a Seattle-based think tank that advocates for intelligent design, argued that the bill would encourage students to think critically in the classroom. They pointed to similar laws in Louisiana and Tennessee, which they say have not faced legal challenges.

No one testified in opposition to the bill.