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Tennessee Law Will Allow Teachers to Challenge Climate Science

In a state famous for putting evolution on trial in the 20th century, teachers will now be able to avoid instructing students on the science behind global warming
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Tennessee soon will have a law granting public school teachers the right to challenge climate science in their classrooms.

Gov. Bill Haslam (R) of Tennessee declined to act on a measure yesterday that would formally allow teachers to challenge "the teaching of some scientific subjects," including global warming, evolution and human cloning. Without the governor's signature, the bill becomes law by default later this month.

"The bill received strong bipartisan support, passing the House and Senate by a three-to-one margin, but good legislation should bring clarity and not confusion," Haslam said in a statement. "My concern is that this bill has not met this objective."

Haslam said he thought that the bill would not change the already-established curriculum in the state's public schools.

The legislation created a stir among civil liberty advocates in a state famous for the "Scopes Monkey Trial," where a teacher was found guilty in the 1920s for teaching evolution in schools. Tennessee now becomes the second state after Louisiana to formally enact a rule protecting teachers who challenge science.

The bill was publicly opposed by the American Civil Liberties Union and several scientific organizations such as the Tennessee Science Teachers Association (ClimateWire, April 10). Three members of the National Academy of Sciences wrote in The Tennessean before the governor's decision that the Tennessee Legislature was rolling "the clock back to 1925."

"We respect Governor Haslam for showing leadership in not signing this legislation. But that doesn't change the fact that Tennessee now has a law on the books essentially granting permission for teachers to violate the First Amendment by introducing their own personal religious beliefs on the origin of life into the classroom," said Hedy Weinberg, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee.

Reprinted from Climatewire with permission from Environment & Energy Publishing, LLC. www.eenews.net, 202-628-6500

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