Monday, July 18, 2005
Utah Senator Chris Buttars has decided not to introduce a bill requiring the teaching of “divine design” in Utah schools, at least for this year. Buttars withdrew after State Board of Education director Patti Harrington assured him that Utah public school curriculum does not teach that man descended from apes.
Buttars had hoped his divine design proposal would escape the controversy of creationism or intelligent design. “The only people who will be upset about this are atheists,” he stated on June 6 when he announced his intention to run the bill.
Utah is home to the Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter Day Saints also known as the Mormon Church. On the surface it would seem Utah would be a likely scene of intense religious pressure in public schools over the teaching of evolution. But unlike states with a strong Christian conservative presence, Utah’s LDS leaders have avoided some of the more contentious separation state and church battles.
On the topic of divine design, official LDS church spokesmen have been largely silent at least in public. But with more than 90% of the legislature made up of members of the LDS faith, few in Utah would deny the influence of the church on public policy.
Groups on both sides of the issue are gearing up for what many consider an inevitable fight. The ACLU of Utah has posted a paper on divine design on its web site (http://www.acluutah.org). The Eagle Forum which wields significant policital power in Utah has expressed its support for Buttars proposed legislation.