The upper house voted 24-8 Monday in favor of the measure, The (Nashville) Tennessean reported. The Assembly approved a similar bill nearly a year ago and must now vote on the Senate's amended version, which bars teachers from bringing up their own religious views in the classroom.
"The idea behind this bill is that students should be encouraged to challenge current scientific thought and theory," sponsor Republican state Sen. Bo Watson said.
Critics charge the bill is designed to provide cover for teachers to introduce intelligent design and creationist theories in class. Several courts around the country have held that those are religious beliefs, not scientific ones.
Republican Gov. Bill Haslam has not said if he plans to sign the bill. He told reporters Monday he wants to discuss it with the state board of education before making a decision.
Some opponents also said passing the law would revive old memories of the Scopes Trial, when science teacher John Scopes was convicted of teaching evolution.
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