Legislators in Texas are considering a bill that could make it easier for science teachers to present religious concepts alongside scientific theories like evolution.
The proposed legislation, introduced in February by Republican state Rep. Valoree Swanson, could allow public school teachers to present alternative theories to subjects that “may cause controversy,” including climate change, evolution, the origins of life and human cloning.
The bill is currently under committee review. If passed, it would go into effect for the 2017-18 academic year.
“Some teachers may be unsure of expectations concerning how to present information when controversy arises concerning a scientific subject; and the protection of a teacher’s academic freedom is necessary to enable the teacher to provide effective instruction,” HB 1485 states.
Swanson did not immediately reply to a request for comment from The Huffington Post.
The bill defines “academic freedom” as a teacher’s ability to present scientific information without discriminating in favor of or against any set of religious beliefs. It also notes that the legislation isn’t intended to promote religious doctrine.
But some Texas teachers say the bill could allow them to more easily blend science and religion in the classroom.
“I simply tell my students [that] as educated young adults they have a right ... to choose what they believe,” high school science teacher Angela Garlington told AFP.
Similar bills have cropped up South Dakota, Oklahoma, Iowa, Alabama, Indiana, Florida and Arkansas in recent months. Critics say these bills could make it easier for teachers to present creationism and other religion-inspired topics as scientific theories.
Glenn Branch, deputy director of the education nonprofit National Center for Science Education, said the Trump administration’s questioning and denial of climate change and evolution could encourage legislators around the country to push for new anti-science legislation.
“The prominence of science denial in the new administration may embolden creationists and climate change deniers to pressure their local teachers,” Branch told The Washington Post. “Even in the absence of such pressure, it may cause teachers to self-censor in order to avoid the possibility of conflict over these socially — but not scientifically — controversial topics.”
More than one-third of U.S. adults polled (34 percent) reject evolution and believe humans and other living things have existed in their current form since the beginning of time, according to Pew Research Center’s 2015 Religious Landscape Study. Sixty-two percent of Americans say humans have evolved over time, but just half of those respondents believe it was due to natural processes alone. Twenty-five percent say evolution was guided by a supreme being.