The governor of Ohio struck a victory for religious freedom in the state’s public schools on June 26, signing a new law specifying that students can pray, wear religious items, meet in school facilities and express their faith on school grounds, FOX News is reporting.
All these constitutional freedoms were under threat from “well-funded groups,” according to Rep. Tim Ginter, who introduced the Student Religious Liberties Act.
Gov. Mike DeWine signed the bill, which had been criticized by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and had passed the state legislature with a near-unanimous vote.
“We were seeing increased pressure on our schools from groups biased against Ohio students’ religious freedoms,” Ginter declared in a statement. “Many school officials are confused, and frankly intimidated by the threat of litigation from these well-funded groups.”
Students had told committee hearings for the bill that their religious high school organizations were receiving different treatment than secular groups. They were excluded from the yearbook and were not given the same access to facilities for meetings.
“No student should have to hide their faith just because they enter a public school,” said Citizens for Community Values President Aaron Baer, whose group advocates for school choice.
The law also will abolish restrictions on students from freely expressing religious ideas in homework, artwork, or other assignments. Critics of the bill say it could allow students to get credit for scientifically wrong answers that conform to their religious beliefs.