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Evolution Debate in New York (6/10/05)

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Recent Action

New York: The New York Assembly introduced Bill 8036 on May 3, 2005 to amend the state education laws on evolution. Sponsored by Daniel L. Hooker (R), the bill would require that "all pupils in grades kindergarten through twelve in all public schools in the state…receive instruction in both theories of intelligent design and evolution." If enacted, the state Commissioner of Education would provide technical assistance during the development of appropriate curriculum "to ensure that all aspects of the theories, along with any supportive data, are fully examined through such course of study."

Assemblyman Hooker, a minority in the Democrat-dominated assembly, previously sponsored a bill to allow the words of the Ten Commandments to be displayed on historical documents. Of these bills, Hooker says, "It's obvious that these are religious-based. But I don't think that our government is totally devoid of religion. The Assembly opens each and every session with a prayer ... Our own state constitution begins with a reference to the Almighty, and that's not Dan Hooker's version."

Bill 8036 does not have a co-sponsor in the Assembly and therefore most people, including Hooker himself, believe that it will die in committee later this year. In addition, Hooker was called to active duty in March and is serving with the Second Marine Expeditionary Force in Iraq, so he cannot actively work on his legislation. However, opponents to the bill are still concerned about the effects of its introduction. Tim Gordinier, public policy director at the Albany-based Institute for Humanist Studies, said in an article for Times Union, "Even if the bills don't have a chance in hell -no pun intended-of becoming law, we're still concerned that they are great symbolic importance." New York State School Boards Association spokesman David Ernst said, "We would be concerned if it appeared that a religious agenda rather than an education agenda were being pursued."

The Times Union also interviewed Dennis Poust, a spokesman for the New York State Catholic Conference partly because Hooker is Roman Catholic. The Conference has taken no position on Hooker's intelligent design bill, which Poust, called "more of an evangelical issue," adding: "There is nothing inconsistent in evolution with the Catholic teaching that God was the author of creation."

The bill has been referred to the Committee on Education to be reviewed at a later date. (6/10/05)

Previous Action

No Previous Action(s) listed at this time.

Sources: National Center for Science Education

Contributed by Anne Smart, AGI/AIPG 2005 Summer Intern.

Please send any comments or requests for information to AGI Government Affairs Program.

Last updated on June 10, 2005.