Critics of a religious liberty bill passed by Ohio state lawmakers on Wednesday say the measure will allow students to avoid penalties for scientifically wrong answers if those answers happen to conform with their religious beliefs.
The Ohio House passed HB 164, or the “Student Religious Liberties Act,” in a 61-31 vote Wednesday, cleveland.com.
Among the bill’s provisions is the mandate that teachers “shall not penalize or reward a student based on the religious content of a student’s work.”
Gary Daniels, the chief lobbyist of ACLU of Ohio, acknowledged that the bill would remove some restrictions on students’ religious rights, but talked about the student who turns in biology homework saying that the Earth is just 10,000 years old. Would he or she be penalized?
“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,” Daniels said.
GOP Rep. Timothy Ginter, who sponsored the bill, said it’s not that simple. “We live in a day when our young people are experiencing stress and danger and challenges we never experienced growing up,” he said.
Ginter said widening religious self-expression would be positive for students. In response to the critique that “anti-science” would go unpunished, Ginter said that students must turn in work that accurately reflects what is taught during the course, cleveland.com reported.
“This doesn’t give students a get-out-of-jail free card,” he said.