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Okla. House pushes for ‘one God as the creator’ in science texts

OKLAHOMA CITY (BP)–The Oklahoma House of Representatives unanimously passed a bill April 4 that includes an amendment requiring state-approved science textbooks to acknowledge “one God as the creator of human life in the universe.”

But a conference committee will likely strip the language from the bill, state Rep. Jim Reese, author of the amendment, told Baptist Press. Senate Bill 1139 would add requirements for a state textbook committee that drew controversy last November after approving an evolution disclaimer for science textbooks.

Oklahoma’s attorney general in January ruled the committee exceeded it bounds in approving the disclaimer.

Two bills introduced by Reese to establish the textbook committee’s right to approve such disclaimers have died in committee.

His April 4 amendment was an attempt to represent the views of most Oklahomans, whom he said polls have shown to believe in a Judeo-Christian creator.

Also added to Senate Bill 1139 was an amendment, introduced by Rep. John Wright, giving the textbook committee authority to insert a “one-page summary, opinion or disclaimer” in any state-approved textbook.

Rep. Barbara Staggs, a Democrat and House sponsor of the bill, told an Oklahoma City newspaper she will remove Wright’s amendment in conference committee.

Staggs could not be reached Thursday for comment.

“I think this bill was intended to kick off some of the current members of the textbook committee,” said Reese, a Republican.

The bill, before amended, would have disallowed second terms for committee members, who serve three years. It also would require the committee to include at least two certified elementary school teachers and two certified secondary school teachers.

Rep. Abe Deutschendorf, a coauthor of the bill, said the purpose of the bill was to provide balanced representation from both elementary and secondary school officials. He said he agreed with the textbook committee’s disclaimer and has no problem with creationism being taught in public schools.

Deutschendorf, a Democrat and member of Trinity Baptist Church, Lawton, said he voted for Reese’s “one God as creator” amendment “but it won’t pass constitutional muster.”

Reese, however, said if his amendment is rejected on constitutional grounds, “they are going to have to take a wrecking ball to the U.S. Supreme Court, the Lincoln Memorial” and other sites because God’s name is mentioned numerous times on federal landmarks.

If removed, the bill’s amendments can be reattached only by a House majority voting to send the bill back to conference committee with instructions to retain the language.

“Hopefully, members will support me to reject the conference committee’s report,” Reese said.

In November, the state textbook’s committee’s disclaimer drew support from Oklahoma Baptists and criticism from a church-state separation group and some Oklahoma education leaders.

The disclaimer called evolution a “controversial theory” and disputed its presentation as “fact.”

Last year, Kentucky removed the word “evolution” in favor of “change over time” in its classrooms, and Kansas officials have excluded evolution questions from state tests.

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  • Jerry Pierce