Proposed Ohio Law Would Give Students Religious Exemption From Facts

Ohio lawmakers are currently weighing a proposed bill that would prevent public school teachers from penalizing students for incorrect work as long as those errors are based on religious beliefs.

Ohio's House passed HB164, also known as the "Student Religious Liberties Act," with a 61-31 vote, sending it along to the Senate, reported.

Under the proposed law, teachers wouldn't be allowed to dock students marks for scientifically incorrect answers on tests provided their answers conform with their religious beliefs.

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As one opponent of the bill noted, if a creationist student homework saying that the earth is only 10,000 years old in a biology class, the teacher couldn't mark it wrong.

"Under HB 164, the answer is 'no,' as this legislation clearly states the instructor 'shall not penalize or reward a student based on the religious content of a student's work," said the ACLU's Gary Daniels.

Amber Epling, a spokesperson for Ohio House Democrats, said that teachers might be forced to accept work that has no basis in scientific fact.

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She said that nonpartisan staff had analyzed the bill and emphasized that students "cannot by rewarded or penalized for the religious content in their assignments."

However, supporters of the bill suggest that the opponents are worrying needlessly.

Rep. Timothy Ginter, who sponsored the bill, says that students still wouldn't make the grade if they ignored the facts.

He said that students who may not agree with the lessons still have to turn in work that reflects what the class teaches.

"It will be graded using ordinary academic standards of using substance and relevance," he said. "This doesn't give students a get-out-of-jail free card."

Ginter added that he felt the benefits of this bill would outweigh any negatives.

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"We live in a day when our young people are experiencing stress and danger and challenges we never experienced growing up."

He thinks that more religious self-expression in school would help alleviate that.

The Student Religious Liberties Act has a number of other provisions as well.

They include allowing religious groups in schools access to the same resources and facilities as secular groups, measures that Democrats have said are redundant with current state and federal legislation that already protects freedom of religion and expression.

h/t:, Newsweek