The Indiana Senate passed SB89, which now goes to the House. It says: The governing body of a school corporation may offer instruction on various theories of the origin of life. The curriculum for the course must include theories from multiple religions, which may include, but is not limited to, Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, and Scientology.
While this is an improvement on the original language, it still opens the door to teaching religion in science classes. Interestingly, the Indiana State Senate Minority Leader, Vi Simpson, who proposed the change in language is against teaching “creation science” and hoped that it might prevent the bill passing. She said, “I was a bit surprised that it was adopted, to tell you the truth.” There’s an interesting article on her by Tony Ortega that you can read here: http://blogs.villagevoice.com/runninscared/2012/02/vi_simpson_the.php#more
I was wondering why Scientology was mentioned in the bill and was glad to find out it’s because of its unusual creation myth, not because we have a huge number of Scientologists in the state. I looked up the top religions in Indiana and of course various Christian denominations are by far the largest, followed by Islam (approximately 100,000 people) and Judaism (about 17,000.) I tried to find numbers on other religions without success, though I did find that less than .5% of the population is Buddhist and 4% is “other.” There is a Hindu temple in Indianapolis, so we must have at least a few Hindus. There’s a Scientology Church listed online, but it’s a house in the suburbs, so I’m not sure how official it is.
To be fair, all religions should be included, which isn’t as bad as it sounds because some of them share the same creation story (Christianity and Judaism, for instance.) That’s good, because it leaves more time to discuss the origin beliefs of religions such as Voodoo, Satanism, Rosicrucianism, and the Amica Temple of Radiance, as well as the many interesting Native American stories. I’m particularly fond of the myths where life is formed from the bodily secretions of the creator.
I would actually be in favor of teaching a comparative religion class, as long as it wasn’t considered a science class, and as long as it considered all religions equally. I think that would not only teach children about different cultures and the amazing diversity of the human population, but it would also result in a lot more atheists once they realize there is no essential difference between one religion and another. They are all based on believing something for which there is no proof and they all think they are the one true religion.
If the House passes this bill without any more amendments, it will be interesting to see what the school boards do with it. If it is actually put into practice, I think the resulting legal fees should be paid by the legislators who voted for it and not the Indiana taxpayers.