New Ohio Science Law Causes Controversy

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New Ohio Science Law Causes Controversy

By Danielle Cohen and Maya Kachroo

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The Ohio State Legislature passed the Ohio Student Religious Liberties Act of 2019 on November 13, 2019, in a 61-31 vote. 

This was created with the intention to allow students to be excused for incorrect answers in a science class due to religious beliefs. 

The Act states, “No school district board of education, governing authority of a community school established…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.”

State Representative, Timothy Ginter (D-5), sponsored the bill supporting the idea that religious expression cannot be penalized by schools’ teachings. 

For instance, if a student is asked a question that they have a particular answer to based off of their religion, under House Bill 164, they can state that they “would not be able to say my religious text teaches me that the world is 6,000 years old, so I don’t have an answer to this question.” 

Though students will now be given the freedom to answer in such a way, Ginter insists that “they’re still going to be tested in class and they cannot ignore the class material.” He says that students will still have to answer questions based on what they are taught in school. 

While a strong Republican majority is in favor of this bill, House Democrats do not feel the same way. 

“A K-12 public school education is intended to open minds and allow free thought, however, we are wading in dangerous territory if we refuse to accept facts and science in educational settings.” Says Representative Emilia Strong Sykes (D-34).

“The bill is redundant and unnecessary, and I would hope that you, as my colleagues, would see it as that and not vote to further governmentally dictate how our schools and our parents and our communities should allow our children to function,” states Representative Catherine Ingram (D-32).

Some students at WHHS also feel the same way. 

“In my opinion, science and religion are two different entities. Science is simply a means of observing patterns and developing conclusions of how our world works. As a Hindu, I am also somewhat religious, but I think religion is more of a way for people to find peace and develop their morals, rather than a valid explanation of nature. To me the two are completely different so answering questions about science shouldn’t have an impact on a person’s religious beliefs” says Kaushik Tallam, senior. 

Schools and governments already protect students’ rights to religious expression, some hope that this bill will reinforce concerns expressed by many conservative Christians.

This bill has been a topic of debate for many years and has finally gotten enough votes to head to the state Senate.