62

The Patheos blog and WKRC local12 report:

The Ohio House on Wednesday passed the "Student Religious Liberties Act." Under the law, students can't be penalized if their work is scientifically wrong as long as the reasoning is because of their religious beliefs.

Or as summarised by the blog:

Bottom line: The Ohio House has passed legislation that would allow students to give wrong answers and not be penalized if those wrong answers are based on the student’s “sincerely held religious belief.”

That seems a bit too strange to be true. Is the reporting by the cited sources a fair representation of the true situation?

48

No.

House Bill 164 or the "Ohio Student Religious Liberties Act of 2019" has been passed by the House and awaits on a vote by the Senate.

It covers several areas guaranteeing the freedom of religious expression. The part closest to the claim is Section 3320.03:

No school district board of education...shall prohibit a student from engaging in religious expression in the completion of homework, artwork, or other written or oral assignments. Assignment grades and scores shall be calculated using ordinary academic standards of substance and relevance, including any legitimate pedagogical concerns, and shall not penalize or reward a student based on the religious content of a student's work.

"Religious expression" is explained:

As used in sections 3320.01 to 3320.03 of the Revised Code, "religious expression" includes any of the following:

(1) Prayer;

(2) Religious gatherings, including but not limited to prayer groups, religious clubs, "see you at the pole" gatherings, or other religious gatherings;

(3) Distribution of written materials or literature of a religious nature;

(4) Any other activity of a religious nature, including wearing symbolic clothing or expression of a religious viewpoint, provided that the activity is not obscene, vulgar, offensively lewd, or indecent.

This is probably what you already imagine to be the case.

  • A student's book report on the Bible or the Koran or the Book of Mormon would be graded purely on it meeting the applicable academic standards and not on the choice of religious literature.

  • When asked "when is the Cenozoic Era", the answer "5,000 years ago" is marked wrong, as that is not correct by "normal academic standards".


The sponsor of the bill Rep. Ginter agrees.

Under House Bill 164, a Christian or Jewish student would not be able to say my religious texts teach me that the world is 6,000 years old, so I don't have to answer this question. They're still going to be tested in the class and they cannot ignore the class material.

In fact, this bill is so much a "status quo" legislation, that even its opponents label it "redundant and unnecessary" (opponent Rep. Ingram).

It's not uncommon for politicians pass such laws duplicating existing ones, for the emphasis and political credit.

  • 13
    In that case, what is the purpose of the bill? Why did they bother - or what don't they want us to see? – hdhondt Nov 18 at 9:27
  • 4
    @hdhondt I strongly suspect it's to counter a specific situation that was brought up, which may or may not have been a hypothetical one. – Mast Nov 18 at 11:18
  • 1
    @hdhondt I think there might have been a case in the recent past of a student who made a correct answer but said he doesn't believe in it because of religious beliefs, and then got points docked for it. – Nzall Nov 18 at 14:14
  • 10
    @DarrelHoffman Why should one not be allowed to choose the Bible as the subject for a book report? No other book has had a greater impact on our culture, including literature. To study historical and contemporary European literature, it is very important to know the Christian Bible. – gerrit Nov 18 at 16:30
  • 4
    @DarrelHoffman depends on the assignment. Obviously, if there is a short list, there is a short list. But there's no fundamental reason a student could write a book report on the Odyssey, and not the Bible. (Unless the Odyssey in on the short list, or the requirement is ancient Greek literature, etc.) – Paul Draper Nov 19 at 20:38
39

The Ohio House passed Bill 164 which says:

No school district board of education, governing authority of a community school established under Chapter 3314. of the Revised Code, governing body of a STEM school established under Chapter 3326. of the Revised Code, or board of trustees of a college-preparatory boarding school established under Chapter 3328. of the Revised Code shall prohibit a student from engaging in religious expression in the completion of homework, artwork, or other written or oral assignments. Assignment grades and scores shall be calculated using ordinary academic standards of substance and relevance, including any legitimate pedagogical concerns, and shall not penalize or reward a student based on the religious content of a student's work.

It's not a law yet. The senate would have to pass it also and then the governor would have to sign it for the bill to become law.

The Ohio academic standards are set forth in Ohio’s Learning Standards and Model Curriculum and include biologic, cosmic, and stellar evolution.

The sponsor of the bill says:

Under House Bill 164, a Christian or Jewish student would not be able to say my religious texts teach me that the world is 6,000 years old, so I don't have to answer this question. They're still going to be tested in the class and they cannot ignore the class material.

However, the sponsor’s statement isn’t legally binding. Until the court system starts interpreting a law, we only have the plain text to go by.

  • 8
    Did you mean to emphasize shall not penalize or reward a student based on the religious content of a student's work which seems to be what op's question is about? The sponsor's statement seems to address an entirely different issue (not answering a question), vs just giving an answer facts don't support. – BurnsBA Nov 17 at 15:00
  • 12
    @BurnsBA I believe what answers the OP's questions is actually the immediately preceding grades and scores shall be calculated using ordinary academic standards of substance and relevance. So if a student writes down "Jesus" as an answer for all questions in the test, they will not be judged for the word itself, but will be judged for the absence of an academically acceptable answer and should receive a 0. – GSerg Nov 17 at 17:11
  • 22
    You can't answer "The world is 6,000 years old because the Bible says so", but you can write "The scientific concensus is that the world is 4.5 billion years old, although I personal believe it's only 6,000 years old because of the Bible". – Barmar Nov 17 at 20:59
  • 4
    Bit confused what your answer is, the two quotes are opposites no? – Aequitas Nov 18 at 0:46
  • 20
    @aroth There's a difference between "penalizing for religious content" and "penalizing for absence of a correct answer". – chepner Nov 18 at 2:16

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .