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Washington Post Retracts False Claim about "40... Bills" that Would Require "Creationism"

As reported earlier, on February 22 Washington Post reporter Valerie Strauss made the outrageous (and completely false) claim that there have been "at least... 40" bills that would require schools to teach creationism. We contacted Ms. Strauss and the Post's Ombudsman, and we submitted an official request for a correction. But we got no response. So this week we asked subscribers of our "Academic Freedom Update" newsletter to contact the Post and its management about the falsehood. Lo and behold, some corrections have now magically appeared:

(Corrections: A previous version said anti-evolution laws require the teaching of creationism. They don't. And more than one state has anti-evolution laws on the books.)
Of course, Ms. Strauss has done her best to fill her corrected article with still more falsehoods. She incorrectly describes the academic freedom laws passed in Louisiana and Tennessee as "anti-evolution," and she now asserts that the laws she is talking about would "either open the door to teaching creationism or allowing teachers to question evolution in a way that is not scientifically valid." Except that is not true, especially with regard to the Louisiana and Tennessee laws she cites. Both of those laws (inspired in part by Discovery Institute's model legislation) contain clear provisions that would prevent the teaching of creationism. The Tennessee law explicitly 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."

A nearly identical provision was included in the Louisiana law as well as many of the other bills that have been submitted in recent years. And there is nothing in these laws that allows teachers "to question evolution in a way that is not scientifically valid," unless one assumes a priori that any questioning of Darwinian claims must be scientifically invalid by definition. But that would turn Darwinism into a dogma, not a science.

Don't get me wrong: I'm delighted that the Post has corrected its imaginary claim about there being dozens of bills trying to require creationism. But its reporter's continued inability to describe accurately what is going on is revealing. Ms. Strauss has let go of any pretense of impartiality, and that has led her to be extremely careless about accuracy as well.

One more new error I should note: In her earlier version, Strauss completely ignored the existence of the Tennessee academic freedom law. Now she mentions it, but claims that it was passed sometime between "2004" and "spring 2011." It wasn't. It was passed in 2012. If I were an editor at the Post, I'd be embarrassed by such slipshod reporting. When even your "corrections" add additional factual errors, that's truly pathetic.

I'm extremely grateful for all of the subscribers to our monthly Academic Freedom Update who made a difference here and helped force the Post to correct its most egregious error. If you would like to help defend academic freedom in the future, please sign our academic freedom petition and leave marked the box about receiving future communications. You will then get our free Academic Freedom Update, where we not only highlight what is happening on the academic freedom front in science, but we give you practical ways you can defend academic freedom.