Bill on evolution proves unfit to survive
Sen. Chris Buttars' drive to cast doubt on the teaching of evolution ended Monday, when the House gutted his bill and then voted against what little was left.
"There are a number of influential legislators who believe you evolved from an ape," Buttars said following the vote. "I didn't."
House members rejected SB96 46-28 and Buttars said it was "doubtful" he would try a similar proposal again.
The bill would have required teachers to tell students that evolution is not a fact and the state doesn't endorse the controversial theory. SB96 was amended and redrafted at least five times, but never included the teaching of intelligent design, the idea that nature's complexity must have been started by some supernatural power.
Still, religion infused the debate on SB96 from the beginning. Buttars forwarded the proposal because he insisted many evolution lessons contradict religious instruction. He is disgusted by the idea that humans evolved from what he calls a "lower species."
The Senate passed the bill after some conservative senators rallied against what they called the "religion of atheism."
The American Civil Liberties Union had threatened a lawsuit and the state Board of Education also questioned the proposals' constitutionality.
On Monday, House sponsor, Rep. James Ferrin, R-Orem, tried to separate the bill from religion.
"I want evolution taught in my school," Ferrin said. "I do not want creationism or religious thought taught in our schools."
Ferrin said the bill would have counteracted what he believes is the "evangelical zeal" to teach evolution as fact.
"Frankly I am not interested in teaching our kids what is in fact based solely on scientific inferences," he said.
But for Draper Republican Rep. LaVar Christensen, SB96 was a nod toward the almighty.
He said the bill is "a small gesture but one that leaves the door open for people to affirm what is in their own constitution."
He was referring to the preamble of the Utah Constitution, which includes the phrase: "Grateful to Almighty God for life and liberty."
Opponents to the bill questioned why the state would single out one theory when the scientific community disagrees on dozens of others.
"Aren't we in a reverse way endorsing all other theories, because this is the only one we are saying 'be careful with this one?' '' asked Rep. Scott Wyatt, R-Logan.
Rep. Stephen Urquhart, R-St. George, led the charge to defeat the bill, saying he didn't understand how science contradicted faith.
"I did not talk about faith, but it has been talked about several times and it's obvious that's why we singled out one theory," he said.
Urquhart successfully gutted the bill, leaving only one bland sentence that read: "The State Board of Education shall establish curriculum requirements relating to scientific instruction."
Then the House defeated even that as a way of stopping the Senate from reviving the issue.