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CULTURE DIGEST: Academic freedom bill passes Tenn. legislature

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Townhall.com.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP) -- Tennessee's legislature has sent to the governor a bill that would protect teachers who allow students to criticize controversial issues such as evolution, climate change and human cloning.

"This bill promotes good science education by protecting the academic freedom of science teachers to fully and objectively discuss controversial scientific topics, like evolution," Casey Luskin, a policy analyst at the Discovery Institute, said.

"Critics who claim the bill promotes religion instead of science either haven't read the bill or are putting up a smokescreen to divert attention from their goal to censor dissenting scientific views," Luskin said.

The bill says it "shall not be construed to promote any religious or non-religious doctrine," but critics fear the legislation, if approved by the governor, will send the state back to 1925, the year of the landmark Scopes trial.

Two science professors from Vanderbilt University in Nashville and a faculty member at St. Jude Children's Research Hospital in Memphis wrote in an opinion piece in The Tennessean newspaper that the bill is "misleading, unnecessary, likely to provoke unnecessary and divisive legal proceedings, and likely to have adverse economic consequences for the state."

"It is misleading to describe these topics as scientifically controversial," the three wrote. "What is taught about evolution, the origin of life, and climate change in the public school science curriculum is -- as with all scientific topics -- based on the settled consensus of the scientific community. While there is no doubt social controversy about these topics, the actual science is solid."


The Tennessee State Senate passed the bill with overwhelming bipartisan support 24-8, and the House voted 72-23 in favor of it.

GAME SHOW WILL TEST BIBLE KNOWLEDGE -- Add to the list of television viewing options a new game show that will test participants' knowledge of the Bible.

Hosted by comedian Jeff Foxworthy, "The American Bible Challenge" is set to debut on GSN, formerly the Game Show Network, with a pilot being filmed in late March.

Questions for the studio-based show will be designed to acknowledge and celebrate the Bible's continuing importance in contemporary life and culture, according to a GSN news release.

Contestants will share their life stories, and each team will compete for a faith-based organization.

"I am excited to be hosting a show about the bestselling book of all time," Foxworthy, widely known for his redneck jokes, said. "It will be interesting to find out what people really know, and an opportunity to present the Bible in a fun and entertaining way."

MORE THAN 550 BABIES SAVED SO FAR IN 40 DAYS -- At least 555 unborn children have been saved from abortion so far in the latest 40 Days for Life campaign, the organization reported March 28.

The campaign -- which focuses on peaceful pro-life prayer vigils outside abortion clinics -- will conclude April 1. The latest 40-day effort is the largest spring campaign in 40 Days for Life's history, with outreaches in 258 cities in the United States, plus sites in Canada, Australia, England, Ireland and Spain.


Shawn Carney, 40 Days campaign director, reported the following recent developments among unnamed abortion clinic workers:

-- Five employees at abortion clinics have left their jobs during this 40 Days campaign.

-- Two clinic staffers in different locations recommended women choose not to have abortions after they saw their ultrasounds -- which revealed they both were carrying twins.

-- An abortion clinic worker showed an ultrasound to a pregnant client, an act such facilities typically do not permit. When the mother saw the image, she left, saying, "Abortion? No way!" The ultrasound showed quadruplets.

The semiannual 40 Days campaigns consist of 40 days of prayer and fasting to end abortion, as well as community outreach and the prayer vigils outside clinics. The effort, which began in Texas in 2004 and went national in 2007, has received reports of more than 5,000 unborn lives saved from abortion as a result of its campaigns.

1 IN 5 BRITISH ABORTION CLINICS BREAKING LAW -- As many as 20 percent of Britain's abortion clinics may be guilty of violating the law, according to a government investigation reported on by The Daily Telegraph.

The unannounced raids found more than 50 of 250 private and National Health Service clinics were in violation of the law. Physicians commonly were falsifying consent forms, and the clinics were failing to provide appropriate counseling in many clinics, according to the report.


The investigation found the primary abuse was the signing of consent forms by doctors before actually assessing a woman and her situation, the newspaper reported March 22.

"I was appalled," said Health Secretary Andrew Lansley, according to The Daily Telegraph. "Because if it happens, it is pretty much people engaging in a culture of both ignoring the law and trying to give themselves the right to say that although Parliament may have said this, we believe in abortion on demand."

The government raids followed a hidden-camera investigation by The Daily Telegraph that showed physicians indicating their willingness to abort unborn children based on their sex and to provide false information on written forms to hide the reason for the abortions.

ASSISTED SUICIDE PROMOTER TAKES OWN LIFE -- The first Oregon doctor to campaign publicly for physician-assisted suicide took his life by that means recently.

Peter Goodwin died March 11 in the presence of his four children and their spouses after taking a lethal dose of a drug he had been prescribed, The Oregonian reported. Goodwin spoke in support of legalizing assisted suicide beginning in the late 1980s.

Oregon became the first state with legalized assisted suicide when the Death with Dignity Act went into effect in 1997. The law permits terminally ill citizens of Oregon to take their own lives by using lethal drug doses prescribed by doctors.


Oregon has recorded 596 assisted-suicide deaths since then, including a record of 71 in 2011.

Compiled by Baptist Press assistant editor Erin Roach and Washington bureau chief Tom Strode. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress) and in your email (baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).

Copyright (c) 2012 Southern Baptist Convention, Baptist Press www.BPNews.net


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