Our state’s next door neighbor, Ohio, is in the process of passing the Ohio Student Religious Liberties Act of 2019. The bill just passed Ohio’s legislative chamber and is moving on to the state’s Senate, where it’s expected to be enacted into law.
This bill has many parts, one of which serves to “prohibit public schools from rewarding or penalizing a student based on the religious content of a student’s homework, artwork or other assignments.”
The vague nature of this statement makes it so that, if the bill passes, students will be able to answer based on their interpretation of religion, instead of on scientific consensus. For example, in science class a student can answer that the world is not 4.5 billion years old, but 6,000 years old, since many creationists believe the latter answer.
Similar laws could very well make their way to Pennsylvania soon. Pennsylvania has already seen lawsuits in which some religious groups have tried to force the mention of “intelligent design” (creationism) into science curricula. Granted, this could never affect Villanova, as private institutions are exempt. Still, many questions remain. Would laws like this affect public universities like Temple, or only public schools before college? Also, would a student be able to put whatever answer they want, simply because they say it’s based on their own personal interpretation of a religion? This is a slippery slope.
Laws like this should be resisted. Religious freedom is crucial, but facts should not be held equal to answers that are, simply put, wrong.