"Monkey bill" passes Tennessee Senate
"The Senate approved a bill Monday evening that deals with teaching of evolution and other scientific theories," the Knoxville News-Sentinel (March 19, 2012) reported, adding, "Critics call it a 'monkey bill' that promotes creationism in classrooms." The bill in question is Senate Bill 893, which, if enacted, would encourage teachers to present the "scientific strengths and scientific weaknesses" of "controversial" topics such as "biological evolution, the chemical origins of life, global warming, and human cloning."
Among those expressing opposition to the bill are the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee, the American Institute for Biological Sciences, the Knoxville News Sentinel, the Nashville Tennessean, the National Association of Geoscience Teachers, the National Earth Science Teachers Association, and the Tennessee Science Teachers Association, whose president Becky Ashe described (PDF) the legislation as "unnecessary, anti-scientific, and very likely unconstitutional."
The Senate vote was 24-8. According to the Tennesseean (March 20, 2012), Andy Berke (D-District 10) "noted the state’s history as a battleground over evolution — the so-called Scopes Monkey Trial in 1925 drew national attention and inspired the Oscar-winning film Inherit the Wind — and said the measure would cast Tennessee in a bad light." Berke also objected that the bill would encourage inappropriate discussions of religious matters, saying, "If my children ask, ‘How does that mesh with my faith?’ I don’t want their teacher answering that question."
The bill now proceeds to the House of Representatives, which passed the counterpart House Bill 368 on April 7, 2011. SB 893 was amended in committee before it passed the Senate, however, so the two houses of the legislature will have to resolve the discrepancies between the bills. Tennessee's governor Bill Haslam previously indicated that he would discuss the bill with the state board of education, telling the Tennesseean (March 19, 2012), "It is a fair question what the General Assembly’s role is ... That’s why we have a state board of education."