Monday, February 15, 2010


This blog provides a forum for discussion of issues unique to Kentucky concerning teaching evolution and science in the State's public schools. To make it clear, I am in favor of Kentucky's children being taught the best available science-based curricula and that includes evolution. Creationism and intelligent design are not science; see for example the excellent set of resources at TalkOrigins (FAQ) and the National Center for Science Education.

There are two catalysts for this discussion. A bill now before the Kentucky General Assembly. SB142 is "AN ACT relating to Bible literacy courses in the public schools." The bill, if adopted would:

Create a new section of KRS Chapter 156 to require the Kentucky Board of Education to promulgate administrative regulations to establish an elective social studies course on the Hebrew Scriptures, Old Testament of the Bible, the New Testament, or a combination of the Hebrew Scriptures and the New Testament of the Bible; require that the course provide students knowledge of biblical content, characters, poetry, and narratives that are prerequisites to understanding contemporary society and culture, including literature, art, music, mores, oratory, and public policy; permit students to use various translations of the Bible for the course; amend KRS 158.197 to permit a school council to offer an elective social studies course on the Hebrew Scriptures, Old Testament of the Bible, the New Testament, or a combination of the Hebrew Scriptures and the New Testament of the Bible.

A second act has been introduced in the House, HB397, the Kentucky Science Education and Intellectual Freedom Act." Such acts are generally introduced under the guise of open-minded and critical analysis of "controversial" topics and are basically intended to allow teachers to introduce non-scientific (and often faith-based) instructional materials into the classroom. This act would:

Create a new section of KRS Chapter 158 to encourage local district teachers and administrators to foster an environment promoting objective discussion of the advantages and disadvantages of scientific theories; allow teachers to use, as permitted by the local board of education, materials in addition to state-approved texts and instructional materials for discussion of scientific theories including evolution, the origins of life, global warming, and human cloning; clarify that provisions do not promote religious doctrine or discrimination

These acts are presented against a background I believe is unique to Kentucky. Chapter 158 of the Kentucky Revised Statutes is entitled Conduct of Schools--Special Programs. There are several sections of that chapter that are (IMHO) decidedly not within the provisions of the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

  1. 158.170: Requires the Bible to be read in class by the teacher. It has a provision whereby a child can't be required to read the Bible against the wishes of "his" parent or guardian.
  2. 158.175: Specifies the manner in which the Lord's Prayer is to be recited in the public classroom. "Pupils shall be reminded that this Lord's prayer is the prayer our pilgrim fathers recited when they came to this country in their search for freedom. Pupils shall be informed that these exercises are not meant to influence an individual's personal religious beliefs in any manner. The exercises shall be conducted so that pupils shall learn of our great freedoms, including the freedom of religion symbolized by the recitation of the Lord's prayer." In this section, "Pupil participation in the recitation of the prayer and pledge of allegiance shall be voluntary."
  3. 158.177: This section is titled "Teaching of evolution -- Right to include Bible theory of creation." Paragraph (3) states "No teacher in a public school may stress any particular denominational religious belief."
  4. 158.178: Requires the Ten Commandments be displayed. The provisions here state this is only if there are funds and there is a requirement for fine print, "The secular application of the Ten Commandments is clearly seen in its adoption as the fundamental legal code of Western Civilization and the Common Law of the United States."
  5. 158.197: Authorizes the display of historic religious and nonreligious artifacts.


  1. I don't see the problem with SB142. Isn't this precisely where we argue that the Bible does belong - in a social studies or comparative religions class? As long as the class remains an elective I have no objection to it, and indeed I think we are being hypocritical if we do object.

  2. Interesting that the act doesn't mention any other religious texts than the Bible. A comparative religion class would be great. I suspision the people behind this would be upset if the class included the Koran or the Veda's.

  3. SB142 is redundant. Nothing in the law now prohibits a school from offering a Bible lit class as an elective.

  4. I don't mind the concept of a comparative religion class, but where would you find qualified teachers (especially in the more rural areas of the state)? In practice, it would just be proselytizing... they'd have "guest teachers" and they'd all turn out to be some denomination of christian preachers because they couldn't find anyone to talk about the other religions.

    I'll be watching to see where this nonsense leads, but I'm hopeful this is just some local vote gathering and it won't go anywhere. If it *does* look likely to go somewhere, I'll start raising a fuss to everyone I can find.

  5. Aw shucks. What is considered rude? Some would think it rude of me to say I am an unbeliever. Is it a personal attack to disagree with someone who does believe and insists you do too?

    A person who does not have some knowledge of the various cultures of the World is simply not educated. It may be they do not need this knowledge in their chosen profession, but I am hard pressed to think of any field which is not enhanced by the knowledge of how others do it. A knowledge of other cultures, including their superstitions (was that a rude comment?) gives an advantage to someone choosing medicine, sales, marketing, business, accounting, education, politics, government service, and many other fields.

    That said, I would only support the proposed "religious" study course if it were taught by Atheists. They are the only people who could give a balanced course about the religions while presenting a reality check.


Please show respect. No rude comments or personal attacks.