The Religious Expression in Public Schools bill filed in the Florida Senate is now scheduled to be heard by the judiciary committee March 14 (Tuesday) at 2 p.m. We need you to contact the senators on the committee and urge them to amend or stop this bill due to concerns over its impact on science education.
The meeting is during my spring break, which gives me an opportunity to possibly attend and speak there. If anyone else can attend, please let me know.
For your convenience, below are the two main points we need to make to the senators. You can also see all of our posts about this bill in the Religious Liberties Act 2017 blog category.
First, we are concerned about this line in the proposed bills: “A school district may not discriminate against a student, parent, or school personnel on the basis of a religious viewpoint or religious expression.” Does this allow teachers or other school personnel to state unscientific religious views on science topics such as age of the earth and evolution? If anyone tries to correct the teacher’s statement, would that be seen as discriminating against the teacher?
Second, we are concerned about this section of the proposed bills: “A student may express his or her religious beliefs in coursework, artwork, and other written and oral assignments free from discrimination. A student’s homework and classroom assignments shall be evaluated, regardless of their religious content, based on expected academic standards relating to the course curriculum and requirements. A student may not be penalized or rewarded based on the religious content of his or her work if the coursework, artwork, or other written or oral assignments require a student’s viewpoint to be expressed.” Does this allow students to give unscientific religious views as answers on questions about science topics such as age of the earth and evolution? If a teacher tries to explain to the student how the religious answer is unscientific and incorrect, would the teacher be seen as discriminating against the student?
The above questions in bold are valid, keeping in mind that the bill sponsor, Sen. Dennis Baxley, has been documented saying that he would like to see the teaching of evolution balanced with other views. Furthermore, a similar bill in Kentucky was supported by a lawmaker who admitted that students should be allowed to say the earth is only 6,000 years old and any attempt to correct the student would be seen as “retaliation.”
Now is the time to start calling and emailing the senators on the judiciary committee. Don’t wait. Do it now.