Creationism Controversies Brewing in Other States
On the day Arkansas's creation-science law was declared unconstitutional, the Mississippi Senate passed by a vote of 48 to 4 a creation-science bill of its own, despite legislators' knowledge of the unfavorable Arkansas decision.
The bill must still pass the House and be signed by the Governor.
In Louisiana, the only other state so far to pass a creation-science bill, the American Civil Liberties Union (aclu) is preparing a suit against the state similar to the one it filed in Arkansas.
Creationists in Louisiana have filed a suit of their own asking a federal judge to declare that the state's law is constitutional. State Superintendent of Education Kelly Nix has said he will not implement the law until the question of its constitutionality is settled. Last week he asked a federal court in New Orleans to delay the aclu suit until the creationists' suit, which was filed first, is settled.
In Maryland, a different kind of evolution controversy may end in a lawsuit. There, the Harford County school superintendent is considering staff recommendations that a class of gifted eighth-grade students be prohibited from producing the play Inherit the Wind, which is based on the 1925 Scopes trial.
Superintendent Alfonso A. Rober-ty, who said the play is "entirely inappropriate" for students that age, has asked one teacher involved in the play to submit a proposal describing the play and his reasons for choosing it.
A committee of supervisors and middle-school principals will then make a decision, he said.
Thomas E. Berg, one of the two teachers who selected the play, has agreed to cooperate with the Maryland chapter of the acluin a suit over the matter.
And John C. Roemer, executive director of the Maryland aclu chapter, said last week that, "We're not waiting for any study panels. Our attorney is currently working on papers, and we'll go to court within the next couple of days if the school district remains adamant in banning the play."
Mr. Berg said that the attention evolution is receiving was not a motivation for choosing the play.
In Wisconsin, Herbert J. Grover, the state's superintendent of public instruction, is considering a policy draft prepared by two staff members that asserts that the biblical version of creation has no place in public schools' science curricula.
The draft position paper, which would not be binding on local school districts, says that "creation, as presented in the Bible (not scientific creationism), is appropriate for inclusion in historical and comparative religious studies but not for inclusion in the study of science."
"Alternate scientific theories may be compared in the science classroom," the draft policy states, "but only the theory that best explains evidence which has been validated by repeated scientific testing should be accepted."
That theory, the draft says, is the theory of evolution; but, the paper adds, evolution theory is subject to change and "therefore, should not be presented as fact."
Arnold M. Chandler, who as director of the state bureau for program development supervises the science and social-studies specialists who wrote the position paper, stressed that "there is no official statement out of the department yet. We expect one in the very foreseeable future."
The policy has been in the making for three or four years, Mr. Chandler said, and is not the result of any current controversy in the state or of requests from local school officials. "But we like to stay fairly well ahead of things," he said.
The policy, when officially issued, will be strictly advisory, as are all of the department's policies, Mr. Chandler said. The state, he added, has no laws on the teaching of theories of the earth's origins.