School teacher John Scopes was convicted of violating state statute by teaching evolution in biology class and was fined $100. The Tennessee Supreme Court overturned his conviction on a technicality a year later. In 1967, Tennessee’s anti-evolution law was revoked.
Some believe the new bill could open the door for religious teaching in the classroom. The American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee also asked the governor to veto it.
State ACLU executive director Hedy Weinberg said allowing students to critique “scientific weaknesses” is language frequently used by those seeking to introduce non-scientific ideas like creationism and intelligent design into science curriculum.
“No one doubts the value of critical thinking to any serious course of scientific study, but this legislation is not truly aimed at developing students’ critical thinking skills,” she wrote.
House sponsor Bill Dunn, a Knoxville Republican, said the proposal states that it is “not … construed to promote religion.”
“What the bill says is that as long as you stick to objective scientific facts, then you can bring that into play,” the Knoxville Republican said. “So if students start asking questions or if there’s debate on it, it’s not a one-sided debate. But it is a fair debate, in that it’s objective scientific facts that are brought forward.”