Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Conservative Religious Influence Seen in Tennessee `Monkey Bill'

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Conservative Religious Influence Seen in Tennessee `Monkey Bill'

Article excerpt

A resolution urging all Tennesseans to follow the Ten Commandments and a bill outlawing the teaching of evolution as fact show the religious right's growing clout.

The resolution encourages people to observe the commandments, teach them to their children, display them at home, in businesses, schools and places of worship. It also would set aside 10 days in May to honor the commandments.

Such a resolution would not have the force of law, but would amount to an official statement of opinion and recommendation by the General Assembly.

The bill that has become known as the "monkey bill" outlaws the teaching of evolution as fact, and requires that any teacher who does not emphasize that evolution is just a theory will be fired.

Coming 75 years after Tennessee made international headlines for its criminalization of the teaching of evolution in the famous Scopes Monkey Trial (also made famous by the play and movie "Inherit the Wind), this year's monkey bill has made national news, to the chagrin of many legislators.

"I think it all comes from the religious right, yes," said Sen. Steve Cohen, a Democrat, who on Thursday was the only senator questioning whether Sen. Ben Atchley's resolution on the Ten Commandments was a violation of the First Amendment, which forbids the government establishment of religion.

Atchley, a Knoxville Republican who is facing a Republican primary challenge from a member of the Christian Coalition, refused Cohen's request to wait for an attorney general's opinion on his resolution and reset the resolution to be heard again next week. …

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