Last week, Missouri voters gave themselves the right to pray without state interference. But some science educators are worried that the seemingly innocuous referendum on the 7 August ballot, which passed overwhelmingly, could also undermine the teaching of evolution in public schools.
Amendment 2 “is a lawyer’s dream” because of its vagueness, says Joshua Rosenau, programs and policy director of the National Center for Science Education in Oakland, California, which tracks efforts by groups that oppose evolution. While the amendment begins by declaring that all residents “have a natural and indefeasible right to worship Almighty God according to the dictates of their own consciences,” it also lists several situations in which that right must be protected. Rosenau is worried about one particular clause: “that no student shall be compelled to perform or participate in academic assignments or educational presentations that violate his or her religious beliefs.”
Those words give students the legal right to skip assignments related to evolution if the subject matter conflicts with their beliefs, Rosenau says.
Source: Science Insider
So, in essence, students could state a religious objection to learning about evolution, the origin of the universe, geologic history, even sex education. This topics are already contentious areas for teachers. The backers of the law say this interpretation is taking it to extremes, saying that these objections won’t happen often. The problem is, it shouldn’t be allowed to happen at all. The only harm in learning about things that may conflict with your belief is that your belief may be threatened. And those who push belief don’t want children even hearing other explanations for how the world works. It gives them ideas.