A watchdog group, the National Center for Science Education, said that the proposed laws were framed around the concept of "academic freedom". It argues that religious motives are disguised by the language of encouraging more open debate in school classrooms. However, the areas of the curriculum highlighted in the bills tend to focus on the teaching of evolution or other areas of science that clash with traditionally religious interpretations of the world.
"Taken at face value, they sound innocuous and lovely: critical thinking, debate and analysis. It seems so innocent, so pure. But they chose to question only areas that religious conservatives are uncomfortable with. There is a religious agenda here," said Josh Rosenau, an NCSE program and policy director.
In Oklahoma, one bill has been pre-filed with the state senate and another with the state house. The Senate bill would oblige the state to help teachers "find more effective ways to represent the science curriculum where it addresses scientific controversies". The House bill specifically mentions "biological evolution, the chemical origins of life, global warming and human cloning" as areas that "some teachers are unsure" about teaching.