Accounts of the House vote are already hitting the news:
Palm Beach Post: Florida House approves evolution bill
Gov. Charlie Crist dropped in on the House press gallery during the two-hour debate this morning and showed little enthusiasm for the bill, which opponents argue would open a backdoor for creationism to be taught public schools.
Asked if he believed in evolution, Crist said, “I believe in lot of things. We should have the freedom to have a good exchange of ideas.”
But is legislation needed to guarantee that exchange? “I’m not so sure,” Crist said.
[Rep. Carl] Domino compared the bill to conspiracy theorists who believe the moon landing was faked and that the Holocaust never happened.
“There are a lot of strange things out there that I don’t want my teachers teaching,” Domino. “I don’t want my teachers just teaching their opinion about things.”
The bill’s author, Republican Rep. Alan Hays of Umatilla, insisted the theory of evolution “has holes in it.”
“No one has any record – no fossils have been found, no eyewitnesses have seen any species in transition from one to another,” Hays said.
Hays said he wasn’t trying to include creationism in science classes, but could not name a scientific alternative to evolution.
“This bill does not permit, nor authorize, nor allow, the teaching of creationism or intelligent design,” said Hays, R-Umatilla. “This bill does not permit the teaching of religion in the classroom.”
But whether the state-mandated “critical analysis” of Darwin’s theory would include alternatives like intelligent design would be left to teachers.
The bill, called “The Evolution Academic Freedom Act,” is needed because teachers are fearful of presenting a critical view of evolution, said Hays.
However, no teachers in Florida have filed complaints about their lessons on evolution, according to the state Department of Education.
House Republicans say their version is “simpler and more straightforward than the Senate bill on the subject of evolution. Also, unlike the Senate bill, this bill does not create any new ‘rights’ for teachers,” according to memo from the House majority office.
But the Senate seems unlikely to accept the House version, since that chamber already rejected that approach last week.
“This bill shows conclusively that bad bills can turn legislators into monkeys. This is silly legislation,” said Rep. Keith Fitzgerald, D-Sarasota, a college professor. House Speaker pro-tempore Marty Bowen, R-Haines City, admonished him to stick to debating the issues, rather than name-calling.
Orlando Sentinel: “Evolving” academic freedom bill clears the House
â€œI donâ€™t want religion taught to my daughters or grandchildren in the classroom either,â€ said House sponsor Alan Hays of Umatilla.
â€œBut unfortunately, too many people, thanks to the Supreme Courtâ€™s distortion of the First Amendment, too many people are afraid to even mention the theory of intelligent design.â€
House Democrats, though, tried several times Monday to pin Hays down on whether teachers would now be shielded from disciplinary action if they tried to teach full-blown religious beliefs as a form of â€œcritical analysisâ€ of evolution.
House Democratic Leader Dan Gelber, D-Miami Beach, asked that a series of questions with Hays be â€œspreadâ€ into the House Journal â€“ a tactic usually employed when lawmakers want the intent of a bill to be read into the record for future court interpretation.
Others said the bill was likely to wind up in court if it becomes law.
â€œI would think your profession would welcome that,â€ Hays shot back to one Democratic lawyer in the House.
A Fox affiliate has a quote from the Discovery Institute: Bill Requires ‘Critical Analysis’ of Evolution
The Senate last week passed a bill based on model “academic freedom” legislation from the Discovery Institute’s Center for Science and Culture, a Seattle-based think tank that supports intelligent design research. The Senate bill would prohibit school officials from penalizing teachers who challenge evolution with “scientific information.”
The House removed that language from the bill and replaced it with the “critical analysis” requirement. That’s also acceptable to the center, but it prefers the Senate version.
The House’s insistance on language the Senate already has rejected left John West, the center’s associate director, perplexed.
“It makes me wonder whether some of the people who are for it are actually trying to scuttle it,” West said. He’s worried because the legislative session is set to end Friday. If the two chambers cannot resolve their differences in the remaining four days, the bill will die.