Ohio governor signs bill expanding religious freedom in school

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine signed a bill into law expanding the religious freedom for students in public schools that was criticized by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).

The Student Religious Liberties Act, introduced by Republican Rep. Tim Ginter in March 2019, passed with a near-unanimous vote and was signed Friday.

'FLAVORTOWN': THOUSANDS SIGN PETITION TO RENAME COLUMBUS, OHIO, AFTER GUY FIERI'S FICTIONAL FOOD UTOPIA

“We were seeing increased pressure on our schools from groups biased against Ohio students’ religious freedoms," Ginter said in a statement. "Many school officials are confused, and frankly intimidated by the threat of litigation from these well-funded groups.”

Students testified in committee hearings for the bill that their high school clubs were being treated differently for being religious in nature. For example, they were not included in the yearbook or given the same access to facilities for meetings.

“No student should have to hide their faith just because they enter a public school," Aaron Baer, president of Citizens for Community Values, a conservative group that advocates for school choice, said in a statement.

BLIND WOMAN BANNED FROM PARK FOR 2 YEARS FOR SHARING JESUS

The new law clarifies that students can pray, wear religious clothing, meet on school grounds and express their faith in school, as long as they are not disruptive. The law also will abolish restrictions on students from engaging in religious expression in completion of homework, artwork, or other assignments.

Critics of the bill say it could allow students to avoid penalties for scientifically wrong answers if those happen to conform with their religious beliefs.

Gary Daniels, chief lobbyist with the ACLU of Ohio, questioned if a student could use it as a "get-out-of-jail-free card" for turning in biology homework saying the Earth is just 10,000 years old and not getting penalized.

CLICK HERE FOR THE FOX NEWS APP

Daniels explained the ACLU approves of provisions lifting restrictions on students’ rights to religious liberty in schools, but opposes the bill’s attempt to “enshrine principles of constitutional law into state law.”

“This may sound like a positive development, but it would be messier than anticipated,” Daniels testified in June.

Fox News' Bradford Betz and the Associated Press contributed to this report.