Duelling legislation in the Treasure State
Following last year's debate over evolution education in the small Montana town of Darby, two bills have been proposed in the Montana legislature which take diametrically opposed stands on the place of evolution in the science classrooms of the state's public schools.
On January 7, 2005, Senator Ken Toole (D-Helena) introduced Senate Joint Resolution 8, a resolution in favor of "separation of church & state and quality education." Citing the need for Montana to prepare students in its public schools to participate in today's technologically-driven society, and warning of pressure from "a number of national fundamentalist organizations" to promote, "creationism, creation science, and intelligent design theory," SJ 8, if enacted, would express the legislature's support for local science curricula based on sound science and its opposition to the imposition of "religious interpretations of events and phenomena on local schools under the guise of science curricula." The bill was referred to the Education and Cultural Resources Committee.
During the election campaign, the Bozeman Daily Chronicle (October 10, 2004) reported candidate Roger Koopman as having "plans for a slew of bills, including one that would allow state schools to teach 'intelligent design' creationism in science classes." Following the election, on November 11, 2004, Koopman (R-Bozeman) promptly submitted a request for a bill to be drafted (LC 1199) with the title "Allow teaching competing theories of origin." The text of the bill is not yet available, but the Bozeman Daily Chronicle (December 30, 2004), described it as giving "schools more leeway to teach 'intelligent design' in science classrooms" and reported Koopman as claiming that "few people realize that the scientific evidence disputing evolution is just as strong as the evidence supporting it."