A bill currently under consideration in the Texas State House of Representatives would make it easier for science teachers to present religious doctrines like creationism in class.
The bill is among a number of similar initiatives proposed in several states, including Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Indiana, Iowa, Oklahoma and South Dakota, the Huffington Post reported.
"Some teachers may be unsure of expectations concerning how to present information when controversy arises concerning a scientific subject; and the protection of a teacher's academic freedom is necessary to enable the teacher to provide effective instruction," the bill says, according to the Post.
Although the bill notes that it does not intend to promote religious doctrine, some Texas teachers are worried this could be the result.
"I simply tell my students [that] as educated young adults, they have a right to choose what they believe," Angela Garlington, a high school science teacher, told AFP.
Critics of the Texas bill and similar measures across the country warn they could impact the teaching of climate change and evolution, two concepts which are not controversial in the scientific community.
"The prominence of science denial in the new administration may embolden creationists and climate change deniers to pressure their local teachers; even in the absence of such pressure, it may cause teachers to self-censor in order to avoid the possibility of conflict over these socially -- but not scientifically -- controversial topics," Glenn Branch, deputy director of the National Center for Science Education, told the Washington Post.
Among Americans, 34 percent reject evolution and believe humans have existed in their current form since the beginning of time, compared to 62 percent who accept evolution, the Pew Research Center found in 2015. However, only half of those who accept evolution think it resulted from natural processes alone.
Another poll, conducted by Gallup in 2014, found that 42 percent of Americans believed in creationism. A further 31 percent believed in evolution, but with God's guidance, while only 19 percent thought there was no role for God in evolution, the Independent reported.
The American Institute of Biological Sciences wrote a letter to legislatures in South Dakota after a similar bill was discussed there in January.
"It is important to note that there is no scientific controversy about the legitimacy of evolution or global climate change. These scientific concepts have repeatedly been tested and grown stronger with each evaluation. Any controversy around these concepts is political, not scientific. Indeed, evolution is a core principle that helps to explain biology and informs the development of biology-based products and services, including pharmaceuticals, food and biotechnology," the letter stated.