“A solution in search of a problem”

Florida Citizens for Science needs your help! It’s going to be a busy year for us and we need all the vocal, passionate, action-oriented science advocates we can find to support our cause. Please read all the way to the end of this post and consider our call to action.

We continue to monitor the Religious Liberties bills filed in the Florida House and Senate (previous posts outlining Florida Citizens for Science’s concerns are in the Religious Liberties Act 2017 category). The bills in both chambers have been assigned to committees but the legislative session doesn’t kick off until March 7, so we might not see much else happen until then. It should be noted, though, that both bills are starting to pick up co-sponsors.

baxleyAnother tidbit to consider is this statement from an Ocala Star Banner story: Seeking Guidance.

The annual legislative session begins March 7. The House bill (HB 303) has been referred to the Judiciary Committee, the Education Committee and PreK-12 Quality Subcommittee for review. Baxley said the Senate president, who has expressed support for the bill (SB 436), has referred it to two committees.

Here are some other highlights from the story.

This law, Baxley said, would clarify what is allowed and ensure that school districts don’t directly or indirectly dampen individual rights in the name of avoiding controversy.

In short, he wants to “bring back some reason to the policy.”

Some people think the bill appears to be a solution in search of a problem. The First Amendment already protects people who work in or attend the public schools; why add a redundant state law to the books?

“We’re not aware of any particular cases or examples” of people associated with the public schools being denied their rights as referenced in the bill, said Kirk Bailey, political director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida.

If there are such cases, he said, “We would be as curious about it as they (bill proponents) are.”

There are no mentions of our concerns about the proposed bills’ impact on the science classroom in the Star Banner story. But the Orlando Sentinel did highlight them in this piece: Lawmakers file bill to protect “religious expression” in Florida schools.

Florida Citizens for Science — an advocacy group that pushed for state science standards that required the teaching of evolution –said the bills could spell trouble for science education in Florida’s public schools.

“This bill is not strictly an anti-science or creationist one, but it certainly can be used for those purposes if signed into law as is,” the group wrote on its blog.

The science group, active in Florida’s loud debate about evolution in the 2007-08 school year, said it views Baxley’s sponsorship as particularly worrisome, given the former head of the Christian Coalition of Florida has previously pushed against the teaching evolution.

A Call to Action

Want to help Florida Citizens for Science stand up for sound science education in our home state? You can keep informed via this blog, Facebook and Twitter. But we sincerely need people willing to take on a more active role! We need people to monitor and take swift action when needed in Tallahassee by personally visiting lawmakers or making phone calls or networking with other like-minded organizations. The Religious Liberties bills might not be the only ones to potentially impact science education this legislative session. We’re also preparing for the science textbook adoption process that will kick off later this year. We’ll need vigilant citizens all across the state to help then! And when will the Florida Department of Education update the state science standards? We need eyes and ears looking out for that.

Contact any of our board members to learn more.

About Brandon Haught

Communications Director for Florida Citizens for Science.
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