Gov. Rick Perry told a child questioner in New Hampshire today that Texas public schools teach creationism alongside evolution — a statement that state education experts are refuting in varying degrees.
“No, it is not true," said Kathy Miller, president of the Texas Freedom Network, an interest group that has lobbied the State Board of Education to keep religion out of public schools. "Texas science standards do not call for teaching creationism in the classroom."
David Bradley, a social conservative member of the State Board of Education, said he hadn't heard the governor's comments. But when asked if Texas schools teach creationism alongside evolution, Bradley responded, "Not specifically."
Still, Bradley said that in Texas nothing prevents a teacher from discussing creationism, or a student from bringing it up in the classroom. "It is not specifically in the Texas curriculum," Bradley said. But "in Texas, the students are directed to investigate and evaluate all theories."
Catherine Frazier, a spokeswoman for the governor's office, also said creationism could be discussed in the classroom as students are taught about evolution.
"It is required that students evaluate and analyze the theory of evolution, and creationism very likely comes up in that process," she said. "Teachers are also permitted to discuss it with students in that context. Schools are also allowed to teach biblical history as an elective and creationism is part of that teaching, too."
At a campaign stop in Portsmouth this afternoon, a child — goaded by his mother — first asked Perry how old he thought the Earth was. Perry said he didn't know, but that he expects it's "pretty old."
"Ask him about evolution," the boy's mother can be heard saying.
“It’s a theory that’s out there. It’s got some gaps in it," Perry responded. "In Texas, we teach both creationism and evolution in our public schools. Because I figure you’re smart enough to figure out which one is right.”
In 1987, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that teaching creationism in public schools was unconstitutional. In the case Edwards v. Aguillard, the court ruled that teaching creationism in Louisiana public schools was the equivalent of teaching religion — and violated the Constitution because it advanced a particular religion.
Former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman, another contender for the GOP presidential nomination, took to Twitter almost instantly, seeming to mock Perry for the creationism comment, as well as for his recent statements on climate change: “To be clear. I believe in evolution and trust scientists on global warming. Call me crazy."
Watch the video from abcnews.com below.