Students’ Religious Freedom Protected in Newly Approved Ohio Legislation

Students’ Religious Freedom Protected in Newly Approved Ohio Legislation

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Ohio State Representative of the 5th district Timothy Ginter is responsible for sponsoring a newly approved legislation that will protect student’s religious freedom in public schools. House Bill 164 passed by a vote of 61-31 and is on its way to the Senate for deliberation.

If passed, student religious groups will receive the same privileges allotted to secular groups in regard to access to school facilities among other freedoms.

A Clarification Rather Than an Extension

Democratic Representative Phillip Robinson, who openly criticized the existence of the bill, said, “I appreciate the sentiment but we already protect religious expression.” He feels that the initiative is completely unnecessary.

But Ginter explained that the bill isn’t seeking to add anything new to any preexisting legislation. He hopes the bill will merely bring about some clarity.

“[The] bill is not an expansion but a clarification (of) what students can and cannot do in religious expression.” He also added that the bill is “inclusive legislation that will positively enhance liberties.”

Religious Students ‘Not Off the Hook’

Those opposed to House Bill 164 believe it will permit students to answer certain questions “incorrectly” due to their religious beliefs, and teachers will be defenseless in marking the answer wrong.

But Vice President of the Religious Freedom Center Charles Haynes emphasized that students are still required to learn classroom content despite disagreeing with it.

“They’re not off the hook from learning what is being taught. They don’t have to believe it; they don’t have to accept it, but they have to know it.”

Ginter echoed Haynes rebuttal with the following example:

“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.”

Ohio Student Religious Liberties Act of 2019 Stipulations

House Bill 164, classified as the “Ohio Student Religious Liberties Act of 2019,” would require schools to adhere to the following stipulations:

  • “Give student religious groups the same access to school facilities for meetings and events as secular groups have.”
  • “Lift bans limiting student expression of religion to lunch or non-instructional periods.”
  • “Abolish any restrictions on students from engaging in religious expression in completion of homework, artwork or other assignments.”

President of Citizens for Community Value Aaron Baer commented that the legislation “comes at a critical time in the culture and protects the right of Christian and non-Christian students alike to freely exercise their faith.”

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