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Dave Thompson/PA Wire
World News

Ohio: New bill lets students give answers based on religious conviction

The law will reportedly prevent pupils from being marked down in tests and assignments where scientific theory conflicts with their religious beliefs.

The Ohio Student Religious Liberties Act of 2019, passed by 61-31 in a vote by House Members, protects the religious expression in educational settings, including student artwork, clothing options and the ability to have time set aside for private prayer.

Among the bill's provisions is the mandate that teachers "shall not penalise or reward a student based on the religious content of a student's work."

Under the measure, public schools would be required to give religious students the same access to facilities as secular groups and a provision limiting religious expression to outside the classroom would be removed.

It would also allow students to engage in religious expression before, during and after school hours to the same extent as a student in secular activities.

The bill's sponsor, Republican representative Tim Ginter, told The Columbus Dispatch the bill "is not an expansion but a clarification (of) what students can and cannot do in religious expression."

It is "inclusive legislation that will positively enhance liberties," he added.

But Democratic representative Phillip Robinson believes the bill is unnecessary.

"I appreciate the sentiment," he responded, "but we already protect religious expression."

Following criticism that the bill would allow students giving "incorrect" answers on the basis of religion to go unpunished, Ginter insisted the provisions would not be a "get-out-of-jail free card."

"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," Ginter said.

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