The Ohio House advanced HB 164 to the Ohio Senate.
HB 164, known as the Ohio Student Religious Liberties Act of 2019 would allow and/or prohibit the following:
- Requires public schools to give students the same access to facilities if they want to meet for religious expression as they’d give secular groups.
- Removes a provision that allows school districts to limit religious expression to lunch periods or other non-instructional times.
- Allows students to engage in religious expression before, during and after school hours to the same extent as a student in secular activities or expression.
- Prohibits schools from restricting a student from engaging in religious expression in completion of homework, artwork and other assignments.
HB’s 164 sponsor, Timothy Ginter, a Youngstown-area Republican, claims that our public schools need these types of bill because, “We live in a day when our young people are experiencing stress and danger and challenges we never experienced growing up.”
The ACLU of Ohio said the bill is somewhat of a “mixed bag.” It would remove some restrictions on students’ religious rights but it would also prohibit educators from penalizing or rewarding a student’s religious expression when completing homework or other assignment.
ACLU spokesperson Gary Daniels explained. “Let’s say a student submits a paper claiming humans walked the Earth with dinosaurs…because their faith instructs them such things are true, does a biology or earth sciences instructor have the authority to grade their work accordingly? It’s pretty clear (under the bill) that the authority of a school or teacher to grade a student accordingly in these situations is extremely limited.”
House Democrats have said the bill is redundant because students already can form faith-based clubs at school and educators can teach the tenets of various religions. However, the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause prohibits endorsing any particular religion.
Every Republican in Ohio’s House voted in favor of the bill.
The Bill’s sponsor, Rep. Timothy Ginter, has been an ordained minister for 36 years.