Arkansas public schools could be impacted by two new bills that were passed in the House on Wednesday.
Rep. Mary Bentley sponsored HB 1704 which would allow for teachers to use the creation theory in science along with the evolution theory.
“I’ve had teachers in my district ask me if we could please make it available for them to be able to discuss some scientists that truly believe that the theory of creation should be taught in school,” Bentley said, adding that it could be taught along with the theory of evolution, not in place of it.
Bentley said this bill would allow teachers the option to use creation theory but it does not force them.
State Rep. Deborah Ferguson questioned the bill's legality.
“It was decided by the Supreme Court in ‘87 that you could not teach creationism as a science. You could teach it in philosophy or religion class. So your bill specifically says it is to be taught as science, so why would we do this when the Supreme Court has repeatedly ruled that it is illegal to do that?” Ferguson questioned. Bentley responded by saying that the Supreme Court has changed its mind hundreds of times.
Ferguson also asked if this would allow for all religions to teach their creation theory in science as well.
“I think it’s open for debate, they have been debating this for thousands of years and I think our students learn more when they discuss it and debate it in the classroom,” Bentley said.
University of Arkansas at Little Rock professor Rene Shroat-Lewis said she’s a Christian herself, but there is a difference between faith and science.
“This just really does not belong in a science class. If we think about the definition of science, science requires that you have evidence and also that you are able to test in order to be able to figure out that evidence. So unfortunately we are not able to test whether or not there is a higher being of any sort,” Shroat-Lewis said.
Shroat-Lewis said that if students are introduced to the idea of creation theory at formative ages like kindergarten, it could muddy the water for them. She said they won’t understand how the basic mechanics of science works because they are going to have that intermingled in with faith.
“I am a woman of faith and I believe that there is this higher being that has been here and has a hand in what we do or things like that, but it’s a separate thing from my science,” Shroat-Lewis said.
But it wasn’t the only bill passed in the House on Wednesday.
“If your main outlet is that you are providing abortions, you are not going to be checking those agendas or those beliefs at the door when you come in,” Rep. Mark Lowery said.
Rep. Lowery sponsored HB 1592. It says that no public school or open-enrollment public charter school shall knowingly enter into any type of transaction with a person or group who performs, induces, or provides abortion. Lowery specifically mentioned Planned Parenthood.
KATV reached out to the Pulaski County Special School District and the Little Rock School District. Both say there is no formal partnership with Planned Parenthood. PCSSD said that teachers schedule speakers for classes all the time but may not go through the school district.
Both bills have passed in the House and will go to the Senate.