Indiana Senator Kruse Seeks to Erode Indiana Science Standards

February 1, 2012


Indiana’s Senator Dennis Kruse has introduced a bill (SB 89) in the Indiana General Assembly to allow the teaching of “creation science” in Indiana public schools. In a report just released by the Fordham Foundation, Indiana is listed as one of just seven states that earned an “A” for its science standards. This has been the case for many years. Indiana has been a shining star in the midwest on the map of those receiving that rating.

Not only does he seek to erode the Indiana science curriculum at a time when state leaders are trying to encourage high tech/scientific businesses to locate in Indiana, he is planning to waste Indiana taxpayer’s money on costly lawsuits. When questioned about the constitutional issues involved, Senator Kruse replied, “This is a different Supreme Court. This Supreme Court could rule differently.”
He made these remarks both on the Senate floor and in interviews with reporters. He called evolution a “Johnny-come-lately theory” and that religious “theories” have more merit because they have been around longer than evolution. According to Senator Kruse, the Constitution does not contain any statement about Separation of Church and State. Well, of course, those exact words are not there but the concept is defined in the establishment clause in the first amendment.

I was in the Senate gallery yesterday and one of our CFI-Indiana Friends of the Center captured the discussion from the live feed on the General Assembly website. Incredible!!

SB 89 in its original wording was:

The governing body of a school corporation may require the teaching of various theories concerning the origin of life, including creation science, within the school corporation.

On second reading an amendment was approved which changed the wording to:

The governing body of a school corporation may offer instruction on various theories of the origin of life. The curriculum for the course must include theories from multiple religions, which may include, but is not limited to, Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, and Scientology.

This version of SB 89 was passed by the Indiana Senate yesterday by a vote of 28-22. I was told in a conversation with a senator who was part of crafting and supporting the amendment that the intent was to make the bill unacceptable to the supporters of the original bill because they would have to include other religions and they were surprised when the proponents approved the amendment by acclamation the previous day.

What effect did this strategy have on the final vote? The sponsor of the amendment voted against as did others who had helped craft it. Senator Brent Steele told an Indianapolis Star Reporter that he voted against the bill because it included other religions. However, in a conversation I had with Senator Randy Head outside the Senate chamber, he told me that he would not have supported the original bill because of constitutional issues but voted for the amended bill because he thought it would not present these constitutional issues. In all, 10 Republicans, including Senator Steele, voted against the bill and one Democrat, Senator Lindel Hume voted for it. One of the Republicans who voted against it was my own Senator Brent Waltz. He had indicated earlier that he would vote against the original bill and voted against the amended bill. In an email reply to a person who contacted him, Senator Waltz stated, “Evolution is an accepted scientific fact and has been for almost a century. While good and honest people can derive different conclusions as to who or what began Life in the universe, the teaching of creationism should not be taught in Indiana schools.”

In the discussion, Senator Tim Skinner spoke against it primarily because of the precarious position in which it would put teachers and local school corporations. He asked very probing questions of Senator Kruse. Senator Skinner had raised the same concerns in the committee hearing and was one of the proponents of the amendment introduced by Senator Vi Simpson but both he and Senator Simpson voted against the amended bill. I had a very good conversation with Senator Skinner in the hallway outside the Senate chamber and he indicated to me that the intent of the amendment was to defeat the bill by making it objectionable to its proponents.

The best speech of the afternoon was made by Senator Karen Tallian. She nailed it and hit it out of the ballpark with a rousing speech in defense of the Constitution and Separation of Church and State. You can listen to her speech here. Among her remarks were that she couldn’t believe this was even being considered and that “the Constitution sheds a tear today that we are even talking about this.” I sent a note in to call her out to talk to her but it seems she had already left. I did email her and thank her very much for her support and ask for a copy of her speech.

Now SB 89 is headed for the Indiana House where it must undergo the same procedure as it did in the Senate. As far as I can tell, a committee hearing has not yet been scheduled. The House is not scheduled to reconvene until Tuesday, February 7.  We will be watching.