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Index to Creationist Claims,  edited by Mark Isaak,    Copyright © 2006
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Claim CA041.1:

The Santorum Amendment, which was passed by the Senate and preserved in the conference committee report of the No Child Left Behind bill, gives federal legislative weight to the idea that alternatives to evolution should be taught in science classes.


Santorum, Rick. 2002. Illiberal education in Ohio schools. Washington Times, 14 March 2002.

Boehner, John A. and Steve Chabot. 2002. Letter to Ohio Department of Education, 15 March 2002,


  1. The legislative history of the Santorum Amendment actually opposes the idea of teaching intelligent design, because it was removed from the bill.

    Federal laws in the United States must be passed by both the Senate and the House of Representatives. Often, a bill is submitted to both houses at the same time, and the two houses work on them independently. But before the bill goes to the president, there must be just one bill; both houses must vote on exactly the same language. To accomplish this, a conference committee, formed of members of both houses, hashes out the differences and makes a compromise bill. The committee produces an explanatory statement that tells the legislative history of the bill and any views about it that conference committee members want to include. Such a report may be taken into account if courts later need to consider the intent of the bill, but it has no legal force per se.

    The Santorum Amendment was added to an early draft of HR-1 by Senator Rick Santorum. It was a recommendation that would have made no binding requirements anyway. It was not included in the House version of the bill. The conference committee for the bill considered the amendment and deliberately chose to omit it, and the Santorum Amendment does not exist in the law that was signed by the president (Public Law 107-110). The amendment still exists, in watered-down form, in the explanatory statement due to the special interest of one or more of the conference committee members.

    As noted above, the explanatory statement can still be used to interpret the law. But what does it mean to interpret a nonbinding recommendation that was removed before the bill became law?

  2. Even in its original form, the Santorum Amendment did not oppose teaching evolution or advocate teaching intelligent design. The language said, "where topics are taught that may generate controversy (such as biological evolution), the curriculum should help students to understand the full range of scientific views that exist." Evolution is used only as an example. It is a poor example, since there are no competing scientific views. In particular, intelligent design is not scientific.

  3. The No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 prohibits the federal government from mandating curriculum content. Section 9527 reads, in part,
    (a) GENERAL PROHIBITION - Nothing in this Act shall be construed to authorize an officer or employee of the Federal Government to mandate, direct, or control a State, local educational agency, or school's curriculum, program of instruction, or allocation of State or local resources. . . .

    (b). . . [N]o funds provided to the Department under this Act may be used by the Department to endorse, approve, or sanction any curriculum designed to be used in an elementary school or secondary school. (U.S. Department of Education 2001)
  4. A governmental requirement for teaching intelligent design or other so-called alternatives to evolution would likely be found unconstitutional, given the precedent of past cases, particularly Edwards v. Aguillard, 393 U.S. 97 (1987).

  5. Members of the U.S. Congress are not well qualified in educational matters. Rick Santorum in particular proposed and supported the amendment for religious reasons, not for pedagogy.


Miller, Kenneth R. 2002. The truth about the "Santorum Amendment" language on evolution.

NCSE. 2002. Is there a federal mandate to teach intelligent design creationism?


  1. U.S. Department of Education. 2001. The Elementary and Secondary Education Act. , specifically

Further Reading:

Branch, G. and E. Scott. 2003. The antievolution law that wasn't. The American Biology Teacher 65(3): 165-166.

Brauer, Matthew J., Barbara Forrest and Steven G. Gey. 2005. Is it science yet?: Intelligent design creationism and the Constitution. Washington University Law Quaterly 83(1): 1-149.
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created 2003-6-15, modified 2006-3-3