The Student Religious Liberties Act, passed by the Ohio Senate last November, has recently been signed into law by Ohio governor Mike DeWine.
Enacted in March 2019 and sponsored by Republican representative and ordained minister Timothy Ginter, this bill states that students may engage in religious activities and expression to the same extent that they are allowed to engage in secular activities and expression.
Additionally, the bill, signed into law in June of 2020, prevents teachers from penalizing students for giving incorrect answers in science courses if the correct responses do not align with their religious beliefs.
Many public figures have criticized the contents of the bill, stating that it is unnecessary as many laws already exist to protect religious freedom. Gary Daniels, lobbyist for the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio, voiced his concerns that teachers would be left unable to carry on with their lesson plans if students ignored assignment instructions in favor of religious beliefs.
Students from Wayne Hills also seem to share a similar outlook in that this newly instituted law can potentially interfere with the schools’ quality of education.
“Religious beliefs should be respected, but students still need to be taught about facts and educate themselves about the real world,” said Sophomore Catie Galloza.
Ginter still stands by the bill, however, arguing that it “is not an expansion, but rather a clarification, of those liberties already afforded our students in the Constitution and seeks to remove ambiguity for our schools who are often confused as to what students can and cannot do in regard to religious expression, by providing a pathway they can follow that keeps them within constitutional guidelines.”
Whether this controversial law will have its intended effects or simply complicate science curriculums in Ohio is uncertain for now.