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There She Goes Again: Washington Post Writer Valerie Strauss Invents Claim About "40...Bills" that Would Require "Creationism"

The Washington Post's Valerie Strauss is a prime example of an agenda-driven reporter who isn't very scrupulous about the facts when reporting on controversies over evolution in education. Back in 2004, Strauss wrote an article falsely implying that Discovery Institute favored requiring the teaching of intelligent design. More recently, Strauss has abandoned all pretense of impartiality, using her platform at the Post to disseminate propaganda from the lobbying group Media Matters.

Last week, Ms. Strauss was at it again. In an article for her official Washington Post blog, Strauss made the incredible claim that there have been "at least 40" bills in recent years that would require schools to teach creationism:

Creationist theory is not a scientific alternative view to evolution -- though you wouldn't know it given all the efforts in state legislatures to pass bills insisting teachers teach it alongside evolution. From 2004 to spring 2011, at least 40 such bills were filed in 13 states but only in Louisiana was one signed into law. [emphasis added]
In only two sentences, Strauss is able to make multiple glaring factual errors:

1. Most egregiously, the bills Strauss refers to don't "insist" that teachers teach anything. They allow or permit teachers to teach about scientific criticisms of evolutionary theory. There is a significant difference between requiring teachers to teach something and protecting their right to teach something. If Strauss can't understand this distinction, she shouldn't be a journalist.

2. The bills Strauss references, at least the ones of which I am aware, do not authorize the teaching of "creationism." Indeed, the Louisiana law she cites contains a provision that clearly forbids it from being used to promote creationism. According to part D of the Louisiana law: "This Section shall not be construed to promote any religious doctrine, promote discrimination for or against a particular set of religious beliefs, or promote discrimination for or against religion or nonreligion." An identical or similar provision is included in many of the other bills that have been submitted, including the one adopted into law in 2012 in Tennessee, which states: "This section only protects the teaching of scientific information, and shall not be construed to promote any religious or non-religious doctrine, promote discrimination for or against a particular set of religious beliefs or non-beliefs, or promote discrimination for or against religion or non-religion."

3. Strauss also wrongly claims that only one academic freedom bill (Louisiana's) had been enacted into law by 2011. In fact, a bill protecting the right of teachers to discuss and answer questions dealing with the origin of life was enacted into law in Mississippi in 2006. Additionally, as mentioned earlier, another academic freedom law allowing teachers to help "students understand, analyze, critique, and review in an objective manner the scientific strengths and scientific weaknesses of existing scientific theories covered in the course being taught" was enacted into law in 2012 in Tennessee.

These errors have been brought to Ms. Strauss's attention. Let's see if she is willing to correct them.