While Rick Perry was caught in a typical political moment—talking to a child–he was probably wishing he was holding babies, as the child's mother whispered questions for the child to ask the Governor of Texas–about whether Perry believes in evolution. Perry chose to deadpan a political compromise to the child that some have called a ploy to reach his conservative Christian base for public benefit:
"I know your mom is asking about evolution," he said. "It's a theory that's out there and it's got some gaps in it. In Texas, we teach creationism and evolution because I feel you're smart enough to figure out which one is right."
More definitively, Suzanne Marchman, a spokeswoman for the Texas Education Agency, the state’s version of the Department of Education, tells NBC, the state’s science standards for high-school biology “require students to analyze, evaluate, and critique, scientific explanations.”
In fact, if it were true that the state of Texas required its public schools to teach both evolution and creationism, that would almost certainly be unconstitutional.
State officials and school officials, though, said there is no Texas law or state education standard requiring the teaching of both. Instead, again, state-education policy requires students to "analyze, evaluate, and critique" the scientific basis for evolution. Defenders of the governor said he was merely describing what often happens in classrooms, as students discuss the merits of evolution versus creationism.
In 1987, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that requiring the teaching of creationism, or forbidding the teaching of evolution, violates the separation of church and state. The court struck down a Louisiana law that banned teaching evolution unless accompanied by instruction in creationism.
The law's purpose, wrote Justice William Brennan for the court's majority, "was to restructure the science curriculum to conform with a particular religious viewpoint. Out of many possible science subjects taught in the public schools, the legislature chose to affect the teaching of the one scientific theory that historically has been opposed by certain religious sects."
As far back as 2009 Perry seemed to be trying to tip the scales in creationism's favor when he appointed creationist Gail Lowe over the creationist Cynthia Dunbar to replace creationist Don McLeroy:
Governor Rick Perry – who has even nicer hair than Rod Blagojevich – has appointed Gail Lowe rather than Cynthia Dunbar to head the Texas Board of eduction to replace Don McLeroy. This keeps the board unchanged with 7 to 9 of the 15 votes being evangelical fundamentalist Creationists deciding what Texas children read and learn.