Zack Kopplin, The 19-Year-Old Face of the Anti-Creationist Movement
When Zack Kopplin was six years old, his younger sister, Lila, came bounding down their Baton Rouge stairs. Joining her family at the table, she shared her news.
"I know where babies come from!" she exclaimed brightly. "God makes the babies up in heaven and brings them down to mommies and daddies."
Zack, who'd just finished reading a children's biography of Charles Darwin, leapt from his chair, bursting to Lila's side of the table. "That is not right!" he shouted. "That is not right, Lila! Babies don't come from God — they come from monkeys!"
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And on it went, neither child allowing any ground.
Nearly a dozen years on, and with a more finely tuned understanding of Darwin's theories, Kopplin learned that the Louisiana State Legislature would be presenting something similar to Lila's argument. It was late 2010, and the state was holding a public hearing on potentially scrapping the textbooks pipelined for Louisiana students and replacing them with ones including creationism.
To be sure, creationism was already legal in Louisiana. Kopplin — who had worked on a senior project focusing on the Louisiana Science Education Act, a misnomer that had legalized the study of creationism — was hoping to prevent it from entering public textbooks. "This was just to stem the bleeding," he says.
Kopplin settled into his seat, a 12-person panel, including the pair of legislators who'd sponsored the LSEA, semicircling over him. He placed his papers in front of him. Kopplin, who'd long preferred burying his head in books and news feeds to making direct eye contact, looked up. He found the legislators' faces.
"Look, I know we have a science problem," he began. "And some will say the LSEA requires you to do this, because that's the message pushed. Some will say we need different textbooks because we're confused about the [evolution] controversy. But that's not true."
He paused. The two legislators, the two who'd injected religion directly, deeply, into the education of public school students, shuffled uncomfortably and watched. Kopplin continued.
"And frankly, the LSEA is an unconstitutional creationism law. And it needs to be repealed."
Kopplin, shoving the butterflies aside, had accosted a pair of state legislators about a bill violating the Establishment Clause. He breathed. He'd begun.
Three years, countless speeches and 78 Nobel laureate signatures later, Kopplin, now 19 and a student at Rice University, has taken his fight to Houston, to Texas. And if our state's legislators don't yet know his name — if they haven't seen him all over cable news or haven't read his writings on famed evolutionist Richard Dawkins's Web site — they soon will.
Because Texas, over the course of this next legislative session, will likely be deciding on a form of voucher funding for its public school students. And unlike Louisiana, this state still has an opportunity to forgo sending public funds to creationist academies.
And Kopplin, who has thrown all his energies into his research, has begun touring both the state and the nation to make sure that his new home does not become like his old.
"This is the civil rights issue of our time," Republican state Senator Dan Patrick tells me in early February. Patrick, bedecked in a canary scarf symbolizing his support of something he's taken to calling "school choice," is sitting in an emptying gymnasium. He's just finished pacing a stage, running the numbers and the narratives of the students who'd escaped the crumbling rings of public education.
He's calling for an overhaul of the charter system and noting, time and again, how much bipartisan support he's received. Indeed, Representative Gene Wu says Patrick is one of the few Republicans who are not simply pushing for an increase in charter allotment, but also acknowledge that the $5.4 billion hacked from the public education coffers in 2011 was indeed a cut, rather than the slashed surplus that Governor Rick Perry posits.
Which is big, in a sense. Because Patrick, as the new head of the Senate Education Committee, has the power — the leverage, the position — to cajole Perry into reinstating the defunct funding. Plus, even if the $5.4 billion were reinstated, public funding would still be only at 2011 levels.
But Patrick won't do that. Perry wants something else, as does Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst.
And while the senator continues to sit there, bouncing numbers on the merits and the waitlists and the values of charters — 100,000 students on standby, 300,000 students failing — he alludes to the plan that is still gestating.
He won't call his proposal "vouchers." That name, non grata, has been shelved. "You bring up vouchers, and you start to see temperaments get a little warmer and heart rates quicken a little bit," says Dax Gonzalez, communications manager with the Texas Association of School Boards.
Indeed, what Patrick is planning — again, no formal language has yet gone up, so we have only sound bites and white papers — aren't vouchers, technically. Rather, what he says he wants is something he calls a Business Tax Scholarship.
There is, however, more than a mere semantic difference between vouchers and these seemingly anodyne scholarships. Instead of simply directing public education funds toward a voucher system, Patrick's plan would allow the right-leaning Legislature to funnel part of businesses' current franchise tax into some form of voucher pool. In return for their scholastic generosity, the businesses would receive attendant tax credits — swiping a break for a tax foregone.
It's an intriguing concept. "These aren't public dollars," Patrick says reassuringly. And he is — semantically, technically — correct. The monies never enter the state's treasury. They never touch government hands.
But that's little more than wordplay, lawyerly smoke obscuring the fact that funds headed to public coffers have instead been redirected from private hands toward private hands.
"What he's proposing is a racket," says Dan Quinn, communications director with Texas Freedom Network. "It's kind of like money laundering. Instead of the state providing the funds directly, Patrick can get businesses to do it. It's a racket."
And it's not simply about funds forgotten and accountability ignored. After Georgia began a widespread and wholly similar system in 2008, a New York Times investigation revealed large-scale corruption trammeling these educational transactions: Private schools building athletic empires. Boards aiding employees and relatives rather than those in need. Schools taking the public scholarships to buttress antigay policies.
More worrying to many, though, was the spike in state-funded creationism. Entirely ignoring any concept of church-state separation, Georgia allowed businesses to subsidize public students now receiving educations on the origins of Eden, the racial legacy of Noah and the merits of Levitical homophobia. Some of the economics classes in those high schools receiving "scholarships" began teaching that the Antichrist "will one day control what is bought and sold." And a handful, bizarrely, also attributed Noah's flood to the current store of petroleum and shale reserves found near the South's oil-heavy states.
Georgia, however, is but one state to which Patrick is looking for guidance. While he seems set on the concept of scholarships, another state, Louisiana, has recently implemented a voucher system unparalleled in both scope and strife.
Per Kopplin's research, Louisiana's encounters with creationism have been even starker and more egregious: self-proclaimed prophets declaiming their holiness; schools learning of the friendships between Adam, Eve and iguanodons; students shoveled in front of television sets showing little more than Bible-based videos for hours.
All of these, funded directly by the state's new voucher program while the public school system misses out on the millions now sent toward these creationist academies.
"Louisiana [has had] almost the destruction of traditional public schools in that state," says Linda Bridges, president of the Texas Chapter of the American Federation of Teachers. "Louisiana is someplace we don't want to go."
Despite the fact that Louisiana's system was recently declared unconstitutional by a state district judge, those modeling potential legislation in Texas have singled out both Georgia and Louisiana as having systems worth implementing here.
"If we created any kind of school choice at the state level, then we'd probably instantaneously become the largest school choice program in the country," says James Golsan, the leading educational analyst with the Texas Public Policy Foundation, the pre-eminent voucher lobbying organization in the state. "And if it's exclusively private reform, or if it's comprehensive [reform] like Louisiana, that's all going to get hammered out in the legislative process."
When asked what system he'd most like to see Texas implement, Golsan is concise: "I think there's enough momentum to see some reforms in this session," he says. "[And] comprehensive reform is the ultimate goal."
As a child, Kopplin was shy. Painfully, paralyzingly shy. His grandfather would stare at him, admonishing him: "Look me in the eye!" And Kopplin would nod, take his eyes from his grandfather's gaze and turn them down, watching his shoes.
"My dad was always a little disappointed in Zack," Andrea Neighbours, his mother, said. "My dad was always a tough guy. He just couldn't understand."
But that shyness didn't prevent a young Kopplin from developing an early moral compass. According to his mother — and as evidenced by his convictions on (and slight misreadings of) Darwin — Kopplin always knew what was right. He always followed the facts.
"When he was younger, he was more of a black-and-white thinker," his mother recalls. "There's right and wrong, and it made him a very moral kid. He'd say that this is right and that facts are right when you have evidence."
Zack was a voracious reader. His grandmother consistently boxed books to send him, and his literary pursuit was supported by a mother who'd written a pair of novels herself.
But his time and his interests weren't purely page-bound. To Zack, there were few creatures more intriguing than the terrible lizards that once roamed the bayous and the byways nearby, and he took an early interest in the lives and demise of dinosaurs. He pinpointed the museums nearby — in Houston, in Dallas — and his family visited them whenever his father Andy's job would allow.
Soon his grandmother's books were joined by brittle, calcified bones, bundled alongside pre-Columbian artifacts and ancient horse teeth.
Meanwhile, Andy Kopplin served as chief of staff for both Louisiana's Republican Governor Mike Foster, elected in 1995, and Foster's Democratic successor, Kathleen Blanco, elected in 2003. The latter contest struck a portentous note, beginning the end of a friendship between the Kopplins and the family of the current governor, Bobby Jindal, whom Blanco had defeated.
Discussions on policy poured through Kopplin's house, and he paired his interests in fossilized records with a pursuit of current affairs. Coming of age during the George W. Bush years — and taking a marked interest in monitoring the Arab Spring — lent Kopplin a particular political bent.
But the reticence remained. "He always felt free to speak his mind with us," said Ben Simpson, a friend since kindergarten — but in the public forum, Kopplin clammed.
In February 2008, Andy Kopplin ran in a special election for the state's 6th Congressional District on the Democratic ticket. Zack was set to campaign for his father, looking to speak at the local high school.
When his turn to talk arrived, Kopplin, then 14, stood mute. His father didn't even qualify for his primary's runoff.
"[Zack] watched himself fail and was devastated when Andy lost," his mother says. "It ate him alive — and it's always been really painful for him, knowing that he didn't have enough courage."
A half-dozen months later, still nursing the guilt, Zack and his father were met by a friend, a member of the editorial staff at the Baton Rouge Advocate, who asked: "You see that Jindal passed the creationism law?"
The creationism law. The one that allowed the teacher — the public-school teacher — to bring creationism, to bring something Kopplin considered so obdurately nonscientific, into the science classroom. Kopplin knew about the law. And he knew the thing would never pass, because this was 2008 and this was the Western world, and, hell, Bobby Jindal's got a biology degree from Brown University. This thing would never pass.
And then it did. And Jindal signed off on it.
"I have this idea of what's right and what's wrong, and in my mind, I just knew it was wrong," Kopplin recalls. "And it was a really simple thing for me — this is bad, and it needs to be gotten rid of."
Louisiana's first modern creationist law arose in 1981. The "Balanced Treatment for Creation-Science and Evolution-Science Acts" served as an attempt to parry the theory of evolution with alternative notions of the origins of life — namely, those found in the Book of Genesis.
Six years in, the U.S. Supreme Court scuttled the law, holding in Edwards v. Aguillard that the state legislature had maintained a "pre-eminent religious purpose in enacting this statute." (Notably, Justice Antonin Scalia dissented, supporting the putative rationale of "academic freedom.")
While Louisiana was forced to revert to the throes of science, the creationists coalesced. A few years after the ruling, a group called the Discovery Institute came into being. And where earlier creationists had pushed the eponymous theory, the Discovery Institute, based in Seattle, began advocating a new notion they called "intelligent design."
"They couldn't call themselves creationists, so they had to regroup and rebrand creationism as intelligent design," says Dr. Barbara Forrest, a philosophy professor at Southeastern Louisiana University and one of the leading experts on intelligent design. "They laid low for a few years, developing supporters and donors, but they made no attempts to hide the fact that they were creationists."
Girding their support and plotting their rhetoric, creationists — under the rubric of intelligent design — struck at Kansas textbooks in the mid-2000s, forcing the state to carry a balanced palette of origin science in its textbooks.
"My wife and I were over in France on vacation," says Harry McDonald, the president of Kansas Citizens for Science. "Our guide was talking about anthropology of these cave paintings, and when she heard we were from Kansas, she just went off and kept telling us how backwards these politicians and these people were."
Concurrently, and far less notably, a pair of young-earth creationists cowed the Dover, Pennsylvania, school board into balancing evolution with theories of an intelligent designer. However, much like Louisiana's run two decades earlier, this antiscientific crusade ended up before a judge. And just as before, the doctrine of creationism was struck down.
Pennsylvania returned to a state of normalcy. After a year and a half, Kansas also reverted to its pre-creationist texts. The intelligent designers stood rebuffed again. But that didn't mean they were done.
"These creationists, they never give up, even when they get kicked in the butt," says Forrest, who served as an expert witness in the Dover case. "I knew something was brewing [in Louisiana], but I had no idea of knowing exactly when or where it would hit."
In the end, the legislation came down to one man, elected governor in 2007, whose Ivy League education and Oxford background, many assumed, should have precluded such pandering to a religious base.
Jindal signed the LSEA into law on June 25, 2008, crowing about the academic freedom he and his legislature had just brought to the state. Time and again, he made sure to note that this wasn't about any one religion or any one theory.
And much like Patrick's current wordplay, Jindal's claim was technically correct. There's nothing in the LSEA that mandates the balance attempted in Kansas or Pennsylvania. There's simply a notice that teachers may use "supplemental materials" to help explicate theories that are purportedly controversial, including evolution.
"The law forbids, specifically, by enumeration, anything remotely similar to [the creationism] that is gaining the headlines everywhere," said Gene Mills, president and power broker of the powerful right-wing Louisiana Family Forum. "There's [been] no miscarriage of justice or unreasonable non-disclosure and non-willingness to participate in open dialogue...C'est la vie, man."
Of course, for anyone remotely familiar with Louisiana, this law was precisely about the allowance of creationism into the classroom. "Everybody knows exactly what this bill is," Forrest muses.
The fiscal impact's already run through the state. The Society for Integrative & Comparative Biology, one of the most notable national scientific organizations, planted a conference boycott on Louisiana. Dr. Kevin Carman, then dean of the College of Science at Louisiana State University, noted that multiple faculty cited the LSEA in either their reasons for departure or their rationale for not moving to Louisiana.
"It's a very cleverly worded act...and it's manifested itself in our ability to hire or retain faculty," says Carman, now the executive vice president and provost at the University of Nevada, Reno. "It's been quite disturbing to highly educated young people...You don't end up attracting the kind of talent you need to have a knowledge-based economy."
During his senior year of high school, Kopplin was allowed a choice of senior project, something to distract him from college applications and SAT studies. His classmates chose musical pursuits, cooking lessons and learning new languages. Kopplin chose to push for repeal of the LSEA.
Contacting Forrest — who first vetted the boy to be sure he wasn't a plant from the Louisiana Family Forum — Kopplin learned from the earliest moments that his project was likely going to fail. "Other than Tennessee's 1967 repeal, I don't know of a single creationist law that's actually ever been repealed," says Forrest. "Besides, in Louisiana, Jindal has a lock on the Legislature."
Kopplin pinpointed a state legislator, Representative Karen Carter Peterson — one of only three in the House to vote against the bill — who he believed could help.
Forrest then put Kopplin in contact with Dr. Harry Kroto, a chemistry professor at Florida State University and a former Nobel recipient, to ask for aid. "I thought it was extremely heartening that a young man like this would take on such a task," Kroto said. "I haven't come across that before...People think that an attack on evolution is an attack on Darwin, but it's actually an attack on the whole scientific community."
Kopplin convinced Kroto to contact his fellow Nobel laureates and soon began compiling their endorsements and signatures in opposition to the LSEA. The list, which Kopplin still maintains, currently contains 78 Nobel winners backing his cause.
In the meantime, Kopplin's fight continued. In one of the few moments of levity in the first textbook hearing, a Presbyterian minister Kopplin had asked to attend said, "I should not be here to tell you you shouldn't be putting creationism in the schools. But this is Louisiana, so I have to be here and say: What they want is religion, and it should not be in the schools."
Despite the creationist students bused in to the board hearings, the board voted 8-4 to defer a decision on the books. One month later, it voted 6-1 to purchase texts without the imprimatur of creationism. Two days later, they concluded their voting, cementing their decision to purchase the textbooks.
The anti-creationists had won.
It was rear-guard, sure — "supplemental materials" were still allowed in the classroom — but as Kopplin said at the time, it was "the largest victory for science that Louisiana has had in eight years."
Still, as Forrest had warned, the LSEA was a different entity entirely. While Kopplin began lobbying on its behalf — publishing his creationist research, gathering the laureates, shuttling between television interviews and writings on Dawkins's Web site — Peterson presented her repeal bill. It was supported by the City of New Orleans. It was supported by the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Institute of Biological Sciences and the American Society for Cell Biology.
It didn't even make it out of committee.
(One of the numerous viral videos surrounding the LSEA hearing shows state Senator Julie Quinn, upon being presented with the list of Nobel laureates, saying that she'd grown "tired of seeing little letters behind everyone's names.")
The problem, as both sides seem to acknowledge, is a simple one: Despite the fact that the LSEA's been on the books since 2008, not a single complaint or lawsuit has been brought by anti-creationists. That's not to say that creationist education hasn't taken place; rather, none has yet been brought to public light.
"In other words, Zack and the boys are on a hunt with a political solution to a problem that just doesn't exist," Mills, the LFF president, said. "There's gotta be a different agenda at work here."
In early 2012, Kopplin, as a freshman at Rice, and Peterson, now a state senator, attempted the same tactic. A repeal bill was filed once more. Just as before, it failed to make it out of committee.
But the public has taken notice. Between award ceremonies at the Playboy Mansion and national interviews — all while dodging derogatory postings from the head of Kentucky's Creation Museum — Kopplin has fast become the face of the anti-creationist movement.
"It's hard to be very optimistic...but when I look for reasons to be optimistic, it's people like Zack," says Dr. Neal Lane, the former director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy and now a fellow with Rice University's Baker Institute. "These people who believe in a young earth...they don't see inconsistencies with their belief. And they're really in the way of democracy."
As it stands, both Kopplin and Peterson are planning on leading a third, nearly identical repeal effort over the coming months. There's little indication that this one will make it out of committee.
"Zack does very well," Mills continued. "The problem is, he's lost every single time in the court of public opinion...There are only so many times you can tell everybody they're dumb and still prevail in a popular vote."
For what it's worth, Kopplin has never resorted to ad hominem attacks against any opponents (despite earning "anti-Christ" monikers from his more unhinged detractors). He doesn't even discount the notion of creationism within a private education — his isn't some Hitchensian crusade against all things religion.
Sure, he wishes he could go back and redirect these creationists' educations. But he's perfectly willing to allow them their space and their education. So long as it's kept within the private sphere.
That's why he has now turned to Louisiana's voucher system. The program, which went into effect in 2012, has caused as great a rift within that state as the LSEA has. Teachers' unions have filed lawsuits. Leaked e-mails show the state Education Superintendent's office trying to "muddy the waters" of the media's investigations. One state legislator objected to funds going to an Islamic school because, as she put it, it wouldn't teach "the fundamentals of America's Founding Fathers' religion, which is Christianity."
"Hearing that now we want to be more like Louisiana, that's the first time I think I've heard any legislator say that Texas wants to be like any other state," Gonzalez says. "It's really hard for me to hear any self-respecting Texan say that we want to be like anybody else. It's just not in our genetic makeup."
It's early February, and Senator Patrick is finally leaving the "school choice" symposium. He's still offering anecdotes about the necessity of choice, of the national groundswell that's swept these ideas into both his platform and his governor's stump.
And then Kopplin's name comes up, and the descriptions of this 19-year-old's work and his stances come out. And Patrick cuts it short. "I don't know who that is," he says.
Which is interesting, considering Kopplin's proximity and growing fame. And it's all the stranger considering that both Patrick and Kopplin had spoken in a public arena just a few months earlier.
It was late August, when Patrick was first hinting at the agenda to come. A public hearing was called in Austin on the merits of vouchers. Kopplin wasn't asked to attend. He went anyway.
The hearings began at 9 a.m., with a steady string of invited testimony dragging on about the intransigence of unions and the panacea of vouchers. Six hours later, ears burning from the invited stream of voucher backers, Kopplin walked to the microphone.
The crowd had thinned. Patrick, one of the few pols remaining on the dais, was directing questions and asked Kopplin to begin. Patrick allowed Kopplin to run for nearly 90 seconds before the senator broke off the discussion.
"Now, this is only Louisiana, right?" Patrick interrupted, looking down at the 19-year-old.
Kopplin paused. "As far as I know, yes."
And it was, at the time. Kopplin hadn't yet researched other states, hadn't yet delved into the thousands of private schools across the nation receiving some form of public subsidy.
Six months later, Kopplin points to a list he's posted online that shares the names and information of more than 300 voucher schools around the U.S. that serve their publicly funded students with some form of antiscientific sectarianism.
There's one in Indiana teaching that the Bible is "wholly without error." There's one in Wisconsin that teaches that "evolutionists are 'stuck' because they have no god." There's one in Florida — another state to which Patrick points, time and again, for inspiration — that exists "to evangelize non-Christian students." All of these, hundreds of these, receive funding from public tax dollars.
"Honestly, there are thousands of schools, and I missed a lot," Kopplin says, noting that his research is ongoing. "There are probably 2,000 [voucher] schools nationwide, and probably half are creationist."
Unfortunately, as Kopplin also observes, such an education isn't limited to the kinds of schools Patrick's vouchers and scholarships will likely fund. A recent report by the Texas Freedom Network showed that dozens of public school districts across Texas have offered some form of Christian proselytization, purveying jingoistic Christian nationalism and distinct anti-Jewish biases.
Likewise, Barbara Cargill, chair of the State Board of Education, revealed on January 31 that the board hasn't yet reneged on trying to instill creationism in public textbooks. (For what it's worth, Don McLeroy, the erstwhile SBOE chair and creationist extraordinaire, has come out in support of a voucher plan.) After looking through one of the educational management curricula used in the state, Cargill shared her anti-intellectual concern.
"Our intent, as far as theories with the [curriculum standards], was to teach all sides of scientific explanations," she opined. "But when I went on [the educational management Web site] last night, I couldn't see anything that might be seen as another side to the theory of evolution."
At the moment, however, Kopplin remains focused on divesting sectarian private schools of public funds — so much so, he says, that he'll be taking off the following academic year to pursue wholesale his anti-creationist research. He's continued touring the state, speaking to student organizations and associations of freethinkers and humanists. He's begun pushing for expanded scientific education, something he's taken to calling A Second Giant Leap for Mankind.
And though he says he hasn't spoken to Senator Patrick since their conversation last fall, he makes sure to note that those 90 seconds have served as the impetus for his current work. "My research is dedicated to Senator Dan Patrick," Kopplin says, letting a smile slip. And he says he's looking forward to the day he can answer Patrick once more in person.
"Thank you, Senator Patrick. I'm glad I now have an answer," Kopplin says, steadying his line. "And you can go look at the site if you want to look at the full list of schools. [Because] if you create a voucher program, it seems unavoidable that you'll teach creationism."
Inventive methods have been used in several states to open the door to taxpayer-funded creationism courses.
BY CASEY MICHEL
While Louisiana, Florida and Georgia have gained recent headlines for using voucher and scholarship programs to buttress creationist schools, a handful of other states beyond Texas are currently deciding whether to redirect state funds to creationist education:
A recent Republican-backed proposal, similar to Louisiana's creationism legislation, would bar the state from disallowing teachers to address "scientific weaknesses" in evolution.
Citing "academic freedom," this bill would have allowed teachers to "create an environment that encourages students to...explore scientific questions" about evolution. The proposal died in committee.
One year after the Indiana Senate passed a bill allowing religious-based views to be taught alongside evolution in public science classrooms — the proposal was eventually struck down in the House — the same sponsor is promoting a potential bill that would force teachers to back up their evolutionary lessons with necessary documentation. The sponsor, a self-proclaimed creationist, has termed evolution a "Johnny-come-lately" theory.
A bill sponsored by a Republican state representative last month — a self-proclaimed "science enthusiast," no less — would require the state's elementary and secondary schools, as well as introductory courses in public universities, to offer equal textbook space to evolution and intelligent design.
Much like Colorado's, this proposal, which would have mandated the teaching of intelligent design within the classroom, died in committee in early February. The bill's sponsor said it was a "monumental leap" to believe that evolution is true.
A pair of bills have been pre-filed that would allow teachers — some of whom "are unsure" about specific topics — to "find more effective ways" to teach "scientific controversies." One bill cites evolution among the controversies listed.
Tennessee, site of the 1925 Scopes trial, is the only state challenging Louisiana for primacy in creationist education. Last year, legislators passed a law allowing teachers to discuss creationism alongside evolution in an effort to examine "strengths and weaknesses."
Vouchers and misdirected public courses on the Bible are the most notable ways Texas may subsidize creationist educations, but a state legislator is seeking to make it a crime for public universities to discriminate against research on intelligent design. Representative Bill Zedler, who has compared evolutionary theory to a windstorm creating a watch, has put forth a bill that would prevent universities from discriminating against faculty members working on "research relating to the theory of intelligent design."
A proposed constitutional amendment would allow students to opt out of public-school courses that conflict with their religious beliefs. While the Republican sponsor noted that Muslims would be allowed to forgo dissecting pigs, it seems clear that the bill is directed at allowing children of creationist families to avoid all courses on evolution.
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