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The state of Ohio will permit students to give scientifically incorrect answers based on their religion. However, the lawmakers believe the critics have misunderstood the debate.
Ohio State House of Reps passed a law that may render public school children eligible for full marks on science tests if their answers reflect “sincerely held religious beliefs”, even if the answer is objectively wrong.
The controversial rule is part of the ‘Ohio Student Religious Liberties Act’. The bill covers many reasonable issues, such as preventing schools from disallowing students’ access to particular facilities based on religious belief and denying schools from imposing any one religion on students.
It is the part that reads “Assignment grades and scores shall be calculated using ordinary academic standards of substance and relevance, including any legitimate pedagogical concerns, and shall not penalise or reward a student based on the religious content of their work” that has gathered all the attention.
The Bill’s sponsor has attempted to shoot down critic theories, claiming they have misunderstood the law.
The Bill’s sponsor, Rep. Timothy Ginter, has attempted to shoot down critic theories, claiming they have misunderstood the law.
On the topic of biology, more specifically an assignment on evolution, Ginter says “Even if the student doesn’t believe in evolutionary theory, the student must turn in work that accurately reflects what is taught.” He states that the law is not a get-out-of-jail-free card, but rather a law aimed at reducing religious discrimination.
Said critics have hit back, proclaiming that regardless of how the bill is intended to be applied, it is an unnecessary duplicate of constitutional and state freedom of speech protections and will only result in confusion and uncertainty around grades as teachers attempt to interpret incorrect answers with religious toleration in mind.
A notable opposer of the bill, Gary Daniels of the American Civil Liberties Union, claims a student will, for example, be able to get away with saying Earth is only 10,000 years old on a piece of assessment as this is what creationists believe, and teachers “shall not penalize or reward a student based on the religious content of a student’s work”.
Now the law still has to pass the senate and be signed by the governor, so is it worth discussing a potentially misinterpreted hypothetical? Well, all Republicans and two Democrats in the Ohio House of Representatives voted for it, and the senate the bill now faces is overwhelmingly Republican dominated, so it is likely we see this law put into place.