INDIANAPOLIS | An Indiana Senate committee on Wednesday endorsed teaching creationism in public schools, despite pleas from scientists and religious leaders to keep religion out of science classrooms.

Senate Bill 89 allows school corporations to authorize "the teaching of various theories concerning the origin of life" and specifically mentions "creation science" as one such theory.

State Sen. Scott Schneider, R-Indianapolis, who voted for the measure, said if there are many theories about life's origins, students should be taught all of them.

But John Staver, professor of chemistry and science education at Purdue University, said evolution is the only theory of life that relies on empirical evidence from scientific investigations.

"Creation science is not science," Staver said. "It is unquestionably a statement of a specific religion."

The Rev. Charles Allen, head of Grace Unlimited, an Indianapolis campus ministry, said students would be served better by teaching religion comparatively, rather than trying to "smuggle it in" to a science course.

The Republican-controlled Senate Education Committee nevertheless voted 8-2 to send the legislation to the full Senate.

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