Oklahoma 'Creationism Bill': State's House Education Committee Passes Scientific Education and Academic Freedom Act

02/21/2013 02:30 pm ET | Updated Feb 21, 2013

Oklahoma's most recent creationism measure has made it over its latest hurdle.

The Oklahoma Common Education committee passed the Scientific Education and Academic Freedom Act Tuesday in a close 9-8 vote, Mother Jones reports.

Introduced by Republican state Rep. Gus Blackwell, the legislation would "permit teachers, schools, and students to explore alternative theories without repercussions," the Week columnist Dana Liebelson writes.

In layman's terms, students would be able to challenge universally accepted scientific theories, such as evolution and climate change. Teachers would also be required to find more effective ways to address such controversies in their teachings.

The legislation's language specifically mentions "biological evolution, the chemical origins of life, global warming and human cloning" as subjects that may spark controversy in the classroom.

While creationism bills have often been linked to religion, Blackwell insists that the legislation's focus is scientific exploration.

"I proposed this bill because there are teachers and students who may be afraid of going against what they see in their textbooks," Blackwell explained to Mother Jones. "A student has the freedom to write a paper that points out that highly complex life may not be explained by chance mutations."

House Bill 1674 mirrors another creationism measure co-authored by Blackwell -- Senate Bill 758 -- that is currently being considered by the state's Senate Education committee. If passed, H.B. 1674 would take effect on July 1 and would be implemented in the state during the 2013-2014 school year. Oklahoma's House of Representatives will vote on the legislation next.

Blackwell's bill is not the first creationism measure Oklahoma has seen. In 2012, a similar proposal survived an initial rejection by the state's House Common Education Committee, only to die in the Senate Education Committee.

H.B. 1674 is one of several "academic freedom" bills that are being touted by state republicans. According to the National Center for Science Education, Montana, Arizona, Missouri and Indiana are also considering similar pieces of legislation. Thus far this year, Colorado has been the only state to turn down an academic freedom bill, postponing it indefinitely in committee.

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