Buttars Opens Confidential Bill File on Evolution Instruction

Buttars Opens Confidential Bill File on Evolution Instruction

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- Sen. Chris Buttars has moved forward on his plan for legislation affecting the teaching of evolution in public schools.

The West Jordan Republican, who has spoken previously about requiring divine intervention or intelligent design to be taught as an alternative to evolution, says he has opened a confidential bill file challenging the state Board of Education's position on teaching evolution.

"I have it 'confidential' " -- or shielded from public view -- "and it's 'prioritized.' That means it will be heard," Buttars said Wednesday.

When asked if it would require teaching intelligent design, Buttars said, "I'm not answering that yet. I certainly think it should. I believe with the president of the United States that intelligent design should have an equal position (in evolution lessons). But whether I do that in this bill this time, I'm not sure.

Buttars said the bill will challenge the state school board's statement on teaching evolution. He said it could require the school board to reword its position statement. He said it could require teachers to read a statement of sorts before evolution lessons.

"We've got two or three different (things) we're looking at right now," Buttars said. He said he also might address his concerns in a series of bills over the next few years.

Buttars has suggested previously that intelligent design be taught, perhaps in a required philosophy or humanities class.

The state Board of Education last September unanimously supported teaching evolution in high school biology, where it is central to the state core curriculum. Its position statement was supported by several university professors and scientists from institutions including Brigham Young University.

"The board listened to good testimony (and) is quite committed, I think, to the separation of religion from the schools, though many of us are very religious folks," board Chairman Kim Burningham said, reserving judgment on Buttars' bill until he sees it.

"I just hate (for) us to give our attention to that when it seems (there are) so many more important things we ought to be giving our attention to," he said.

Buttars said he has asked the Office of Legislative Research and General Counsel to draft the bill.

He addressed the matter on "The Senate Site" online blog this week, saying the bill language will be kept secret until he is satisfied that it can withstand a court challenge and that the intent of the bill and how it will be administered are clear.

Utah Eagle Forum President Gayle Ruzicka praised Buttars' efforts and said she asked him to speak on the subject at the group's Jan. 14 convention. She said Buttars offered to unveil the bill at the same time.

"This is a very, very important issue for us," Ruzicka said. "We're not asking them not to teach evolution, but one, teach evolution as a theory, and two, ... include more than one viewpoint."

(Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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