Ohio House passes bill apparently allowing students to give wrong answers if those answers are based on religious conviction

Here we go again. It’s fairly normal procedure for evolutionary biologists to tell their creationist students that they don’t have to accept the evolution they’re taught in class, but they must at least regurgitate the correct answers on exams. But the House part of the Ohio state legislature has apparently gone further—they’ve passed a bill mandating that students cannot be penalized (or rewarded) for giving answers on tests or assignments that comport with their religion.

Read this report at Cleveland.com (click on screenshot):

From the site:

The Ohio House sent to the Senate on Wednesday a measure that would prohibit public schools from penalizing students for some work that contains religious beliefs.

Critics have called the bill unnecessary or valuing religion over secularism. One critic said under the bill, if a student turned in homework saying the earth is 10,000 years old – a belief held by some creationists — they couldn’t get docked in their grade. However, the bill’s sponsor said it was more nuanced than that.

House Bill 164 passed the House 61 to 31.

Now I can’t access the bill since the ship won’t let me, but I’m trying to get a copy from someone. In the meantime, you can read it for yourself, and I’ll rely on a summary given by the site. (UPDATE: I’ve now been able to see the bill and have added a few more of its stipulations.)

HB 164, known as the Ohio Student Religious Liberties Act of 2019:

  • 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.

It also specifies a daily “moment of silence for all students”: “for prayer, reflection, or meditation upon a moral, philosophical, or patriotic theme”, but adds that no student will be required to participate. But a student who doesn’t remain silent will surely be demonized, so this is bizarre. Its purpose, though, is clear: it’s a Christian ploy to get students to start the school day with a prayer. 

The bill is worrisome because of course the second and fourth parts are clear violations of the First Amendment. None of us have problems with schools giving religious groups the same rights as secular groups, which in fact is required by the First Amendment. Religious expression during instructional times impedes student education, and where there’s a conflict like this between religious wishes and governmental requirements, it’s almost always resolved in favor of the government (religious exemptions for vaccinations, allowed in many states, is an exception). Rendering unto Caesar is standard practice.

The fourth bit—the subject of this post and the Ohio bill—is especially worrisome, because it allows students to give wrong answers if those wrong answers comport with their faith. That, too, is inimical to the public welfare, and to the duty of public education, in the service of religion. While the bill is said to be more “nuanced” than that, I don’t know how, and even the bill’s supporters aren’t sure.

Here’s what that bit says in the bill:

Sec. 3320.03. No school district board of education, governing authority of a community school established under Chapter 3314. of the Revised Code, governing body of a STEM school established under Chapter 3326. of the Revised Code, or board of trustees of a college-preparatory boarding school established under Chapter 3328. of the Revised Code shall prohibit a student from engaging in religious expression in the completion of homework, artwork, or other written or oral assignments. Assignment grades and scores shall be calculated using ordinary academic standards of substance and relevance, including any legitimate pedagogical concerns, and shall not penalize or reward a student based on the religious content of a student’s work.

You can see the ambiguity here. On the one hand the code permits students to use religious expression to do homework or answer test questions, and to do so without penalty (or reward); on the other hand it says that assignments will be graded “using ordinary academic standards of substance and relevance.” That gives no guidelines about what to do when a student says that the Bible says that the Earth is 10,000 years old, or that all animals and plants were created within a day or two because that’s what Genesis says. This is a bill that’s simply begging for a lawsuit.

How do the sponsors justify such a ridiculous incursion in public education—an incursion that, if legal, would presumably apply not just in secondary schools, but in state colleges and universities? Here’s the justification:

Children these days face pressures over drug use, student violence and increasing rates of depression and suicide, said bill sposnor Rep. Timothy Ginter, Youngstown-area Republican.

“We live in a day when our young people are experiencing stress and danger and challenges we never experienced growing up,” he said.

Ginter said he’s convinced that allowing religious self-expression would be positive.

Well, there’s plenty of chance for religious self-expression after school or in church. And there’s no excuse for impeding students’ education by giving them credit for religious answers that are wrong—or failing to tell them that they’re wrong, even if you don’t penalize them. If you want religious answers to be acceptable, have your kids home-schooled—or send them to religious schools.

But would the bill allow students to get credit for wrong answers that buttress their faith? It’s not clear; that might depend on the results of later First-Amendment lawsuits. The Cleveland.com website says this:

ACLU [American Civil Liberties Union] of Ohio Chief Lobbyist Gary Daniels called HB 164 a mixed bag. On the one hand it removes some restrictions on students’ religious rights.

I think Daniels is a bit off the mark here. Those “restrictions on students’ religious rights” are already prohibited by the First Amendment (first and third points above). So what’s new?

Here’s the ambiguous bit:

On the other hand, Daniels said that if a student submitted biology homework saying the earth is 10,000 years old, as some creationists believe, the teacher cannot dock points.

“Under HB 164, the answer is ‘no,’ as this legislation clearly states the instructor ‘shall not penalize or reward a student based on the religious content of a student’s work,” he said.

Well, that’s confusing! If you can neither penalize nor reward students for arguing that, for example, the Earth is 10,000 years old, what can you do? If you give them credit, you’re rewarding them. If you give them no credit, you’re penalizing them.

Amber Epling, a spokeswoman for Ohio House Democrats, said that in an analysis of the bill by the legislature’s nonpartisan staff, “they cannot be rewarded or penalized for the religious content in their assignments.”

She believes the bill could result in teachers accepting assignments that fly in the face of science.

But I think it’s more likely that teachers would avoid this whole issue by not asking questions that could lead to religiously-inspired answers. But that means no evolutionary biology at all, and not many biology teachers want to avoid teaching evolution, even in the American South. To deprive students of this wondrous (and true!) theory by catering to students’ faiths would be to do them a profound disservice. After all, is religion so different from other unsubstantiated faiths like Holocaust denialism? Does Scientology and its crazy claims about Xenu and thetans get “respected” too? That way lies madness.

And here’s some more madness. Sponsor Gintis says that the bill’s “nuances” prohibit students from getting credit for wrong but religiously-inspired answers, but then undermines what he said by asserting that Moses was a historical figure and you could get credit for writing about Moses as if he existed.

But Ginter, the bill’s sponsor, said that the student would get a lesser grade in a biology class for an evolution assignment. Even if the student doesn’t believe in evolutionary theory, the student must turn in work that accurately reflects what is taught.

“It will be graded using ordinary academic standards of using substance and relevance,” he said.

However, if students were assigned a report based on historic figures, they could turn in a paper on a historical figure, such as Moses or Mohammed, Ginter said.

What, exactly, is the extra-Biblical evidence for the historical existence of Moses? It’s exactly as thin as extra-Biblical evidence for the historical evidence for a Jesus figure—i.e., NO evidence.

If you’re an Ohio resident, please read the bill and then, if you object (and I’m guessing you will), write to your state senator and your governor. Though the bill has already passed the state House by a 2/3 majority, it must still pass the state Senate and then be signed into law by Governor Mike DeWine.

h/t: Woody, Fred, Kit

113 Comments

  1. Jonathan Smith
    Posted November 15, 2019 at 10:51 am | Permalink

    A similar bill is already in place in Florida

  2. Diana MacPherson
    Posted November 15, 2019 at 11:01 am | Permalink

    I’m curious what is meant by “religious expression” can I have a whole Black Mass if I’m a Satanist at any time during class? Or can I summon a demon?

    As for the exam answers give me a break – you can just write a wrong answer and say it’s part of your religion! It’s going to dumb down a whole generation and these people vote! It’s bad enough people lack critical thinking and science skills already and this will make it even worse!

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted November 15, 2019 at 11:02 am | Permalink

      Oh even better – claim that you need to pray to Satan out loud during the minute of silence and stopping you is against your religious expression.

    • Saul Sorrell-Till
      Posted November 15, 2019 at 11:08 am | Permalink

      “I’m curious what is meant by “religious expression””

      A smug one.

      • Diana MacPherson
        Posted November 15, 2019 at 11:09 am | Permalink

        Ba dum tah….tish

        • Saul Sorrell-Till
          Posted November 15, 2019 at 11:14 am | Permalink

          Here all week.

    • Posted November 15, 2019 at 11:40 am | Permalink

      Never mind satanists, let’s see how it works out for Muslims. I strongly suspect that by “religion” they mean “Christianity”.

  3. Saul Sorrell-Till
    Posted November 15, 2019 at 11:06 am | Permalink

    The daily moment of silence is utterly inane. It always felt patronising to have to sit through those at my school(they weren’t daily but they happened occasionally).

    Someone I know told me their school allowed one student a day to choose a particular song to play over the tannoy every day.

    That sounds like a much more enjoyable alternative. The religious kids can choose…I don’t know, hymns or something, and the irreligious kids can choose the Beatles, or Max Richter or Eno, or anything really so long as it doesn’t have swearing in it, or a bit where Nicki Minaj raps about ‘lollipops’/’anacondas’/’taking that pipe’.

    Students can use the song’s playtime for “prayer, reflection, or meditation upon a moral, philosophical, or patriotic theme”, and there needn’t be an implicitly religious undercurrent to the whole thing.

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted November 15, 2019 at 11:09 am | Permalink

      Black metal.

    • Posted November 15, 2019 at 11:48 am | Permalink

      At my school (high school in American), the music teacher would end each lesson with a song brought in (on vinyl) by one of the pupils. Everybody got a turn.

      Legend has it that, one time, somebody brought in Friggin’ in the Riggin’ by the Sex Pistols.

      • Diana MacPherson
        Posted November 15, 2019 at 11:50 am | Permalink

        I would have been scared to bring in my vinyl and have it played on the grinders that were many a school record player. The local public library ruined every single vinyl record they owned by playing them as soon as they got them to test them out. They had a grinder of a player that immediately scratched them all, so it wasn’t worth it to borrow them even if you were the first one.

        • Posted November 15, 2019 at 11:53 am | Permalink

          Hi Fi wasn’t a massively important concept for us when we were teenagers. The music department’s record players were far better than any of the ones we owned

          • Diana MacPherson
            Posted November 15, 2019 at 11:55 am | Permalink

            My dad had a good record player and he always taught me to use the button that lowered the needle to the vinyl and never to try to put the needle down manually as it would scratch the record. All my vinyl is pristine even today – even my Sesame Street records from the early 70s and my Grinch recordings. 🙂

            • Posted November 15, 2019 at 12:00 pm | Permalink

              If you go to the Bag of Nails in Bristol (featured on this web site as the cat pub), you’ll find the landlord has a turntable and a selection of LPs that patrons can put on to listen to. He found it necessary to post operating instructions because so few of the youth of today know how to work a turntable.

            • Ken Kukec
              Posted November 15, 2019 at 4:43 pm | Permalink

              First record player I had, you had to scotch-tape a quarter to the arm to keep the stylus from jumping outta the groove. Dunno how many 45s I ruined that way. I still see it in my mind’s eye every time I hear “Louie, Louie.”

        • Randall Schenck
          Posted November 15, 2019 at 12:13 pm | Permalink

          Yes, once the needle has been damaged it should be replace right away. It will easily ruin any records played after it is damaged. This is why CD technology was so good. We no longer had needles in contact with records so we could screw them up. If you go back to the 78s, most of them were damaged just by repeated playing. Most of my folks records were becoming very hard to listen to when I was a kid.

        • Steve Pollard
          Posted November 15, 2019 at 1:14 pm | Permalink

          I agree that many LPs borrowed from public libraries (this is in the UK) were pretty dodgy. I was fortunate in that my school had a great collection of LPs that were kept in excellent condition – indeed they were checked by the custodians when one returned them!

          I bought my first LPs in 1961: there was a company called Music for Pleasure, which had bought up old mono recordings (made obsolete by stereo) and reissued them for 12/6d a go (62.5p). My first ever was Markevich’s recording of Rachmaninov’s 2nd Symphony. I listened to it a few weeks ago: it’s still pretty good.

          Not sure I’d have picked it to play at assembly, though.

      • Saul Sorrell-Till
        Posted November 15, 2019 at 11:52 am | Permalink

        No lie, I used to daydream about going to a school where I got to force the other kids to listen to my record collection. I’d have gone hog-wild, as you Americans say.

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted November 15, 2019 at 4:23 pm | Permalink

      “Tannoy”? You talkin’ ’bout a PA system? 🙂

      • Saul Sorrell-Till
        Posted November 16, 2019 at 6:54 am | Permalink

        Well, I was just squeezing some Bubble-Wrap in my Jacuzzi, while my Seeing-Eye Dog, dressed in a Onesie, applied Chapstick and snorted Heroin. So excuse me if I momentarily used the brand name instead of the generic term, it won’t happen again.

  4. Posted November 15, 2019 at 11:06 am | Permalink

    A lot of this reads like Christian persecution fiction. Are religious groups ever disadvantaged compared to secular groups, in the United States? I doubt it.

    It reads like writing into law that religious students shall be allowed to go to the toilet, like secular students are, implying they weren’t allowed before.

    Now I don’t know the situation there; if there’s a genuine problem that needs fixing, but knowing the religious types in the US, I bet it’s the usual superposition of delusion and chicanery that animates the religious.

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted November 15, 2019 at 11:08 am | Permalink

      Yeah I got a whiff of Christian Persecution Complex as well, just in time for the War on Christmas!

    • Saul Sorrell-Till
      Posted November 15, 2019 at 11:57 am | Permalink

      It’s one of American Christians’ most impressive achievements, convincing themselves that they’re persecuted in spite of being privileged beyond belief.

      I suppose it was a natural transition to Trumpism after that.

      • darrelle
        Posted November 15, 2019 at 1:56 pm | Permalink

        I live in the US so let me just confirm that any claim that persecution of Christians is a problem in the US is entirely ludicrous.

        Once some years ago I made a comment here that within a 3 mile radius of my house there was at least 20 churches. Someone scoffed in contempt at my hyperbole. A few days later I decided to check it out using Google Maps. I had been wrong by a good bit. Turned out there was something like 29 or 31 churches within 3 miles of my house, with 1 or 2 uncertainties. Several of the major intersections have 2 churches and some more than that. It’s nuts. They range from a Primitive Baptist Church (WTF is that? LOL), to a Jehovah’s Witness Kingdom Hall to a relatively posh RCC. There’s even a freakin Mormon temple in that 3 mile radius.

        But guess what? In that same area there’s only 1 synagogue, 0 mosques and 0 atheist clubhouses. Poor Christians.

        • ThyroidPlanet
          Posted November 15, 2019 at 2:03 pm | Permalink

          How about when there’s a “school” or day care attached? The bussing of students leads to code requirements for safety- signs, sometimes powered, signals, sidewalks, etc. Meanwhile, the traffic backs up behind the busses. What happens if it needs maintenance (trick question- maintenance is a given)? And who pays for all that?

          • darrelle
            Posted November 15, 2019 at 2:31 pm | Permalink

            Yes indeed, many of these churches have schools and it does contribute to traffic headaches.

            The gym I use is about 5 miles from home. Sometimes I’ll ride my bike and my wife will drive. If it happens to be somewhere between 2:30 and 3:30 in the afternoon, when all the schools are letting out, I can beat her to the gym.

        • Saul Sorrell-Till
          Posted November 15, 2019 at 2:51 pm | Permalink

          That is mental.

          We have…one functioning church, that is on its knees and will soon have to close down, as well as an empty chapel and another mostly empty church that people use for funerals and weddings. That’s it, in a town of about 5000 people.

          I sometimes help out at the food bank at the church and hear the horror stories of diminishing funds, and vicars having their wages halved. Religion – Christianity anyway – is on life-support here.

          • darrelle
            Posted November 15, 2019 at 3:04 pm | Permalink

            By all indications it’s on the wane here too but we’ve a lonnnngggg way to go.

  5. Randall Schenck
    Posted November 15, 2019 at 11:12 am | Permalink

    The only thing I can say about this “court” ruling is obscene. It is totally obscene. On a happier note – Roger Stone has been convicted on all 7 counts in his trial. How long he spends in prison is still to be determined.

    • Randall Schenck
      Posted November 15, 2019 at 11:18 am | Permalink

      Not a court ruling a state congress ruling. I’m sure the courts will see it soon.

    • Saul Sorrell-Till
      Posted November 15, 2019 at 12:06 pm | Permalink

      They’ve finally caught the childcatcher

      https://imgur.com/r/the_donald/SeU1B0B

      • Randall Schenck
        Posted November 15, 2019 at 12:28 pm | Permalink

        What a photo! I doubt he will wear that often in prison.

      • Jenny Haniver
        Posted November 15, 2019 at 1:22 pm | Permalink

        I wonder how much time he’ll have to serve?
        I’m dying to see him in his prison outfit. He’s so fashion conscious, I wonder if he can he accessorize it? Wear a top hat? How will he fare in prison? If he goes to a regular prison and into the general population, his swagger and bravado would just be laughed at and he’d be a sure mark for the predators.

  6. Posted November 15, 2019 at 11:22 am | Permalink

    A 2/3 majority in the House! Wasn’t Ohio, at one time, a sensible state? This sounds like something I’d expect in Alabama.

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted November 15, 2019 at 11:29 am | Permalink

      I used to think Ohio was a sensible state but there was a mass shooting in Dayton not long ago and in that same city, my dad’s acquaintance had a random dude in a restaurant put a pistol up to his head because the news playing on a TV in the restaurant was reporting on the NAFTA negotiations with Canada (which was reporting all the smears against Trudeau and Canada Trump was making) so this gun wielding guy was angry that a Canadian was there in the restaurant. I’m not sure how he knew he was a Canadian.

      So, I think the Trump administration has brought out a lot of irrational, dangerous people, which has ruined many places in the US.

      • Randall Schenck
        Posted November 15, 2019 at 11:39 am | Permalink

        Good grief. Welcome to America. Those irrational dangerous people would include just about every republican in Ohio. At least those who voted for Trump.

      • Posted November 15, 2019 at 11:52 am | Permalink

        Not long after Trump pissed on Trudeau, a poll reported that Republicans felt more favorably about Russia than Canada. These people have no historical conviction. Whatever Trump says, they will say too.

        • Diana MacPherson
          Posted November 15, 2019 at 11:53 am | Permalink

          The good thing was that I think even more Americans started learning about Canada and supporting Canada.

    • Xray
      Posted November 15, 2019 at 4:23 pm | Permalink

      Yes, at one time Ohio was a sensible place. But it’s now Rust Belt Central, and as the rust built up, many people with initiative left (check out the population history of Cleveland). Ohio is now another Tennessee, filled with poor and poorly educated folks, religious fanatics, and Trumpsters.

      • Posted November 15, 2019 at 5:21 pm | Permalink

        And without the saving grace of Nashville.

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted November 15, 2019 at 4:58 pm | Permalink

      I was back in Ohio last weekend. Even made a trip to Columbus to watch the #1 Ohio State Buckeyes kick the crap outta the Maryland Terps with my brother and cousins, who are all OSU alums.

      I stayed away from politics, but couldn’t shake the feeling that, aside from my own family, I was in Trump country.

      Plus, with the temperature below freezing and the wind whipping around the stadium they call “The Shoe,” it was cold as a prosecutor’s heart in there.

  7. Nicolaas Stempels
    Posted November 15, 2019 at 11:23 am | Permalink

    I think that should be completely unacceptable in a secular state (as the US purportedly is), not in science exams at least.

  8. Posted November 15, 2019 at 11:42 am | Permalink

    Reblogged this on The Logical Place and commented:
    I’m speechless.

  9. CJColucci
    Posted November 15, 2019 at 11:43 am | Permalink

    I wish I were practicing law in Ohio rather than New York. More work for me and more fun, too.

  10. Matt
    Posted November 15, 2019 at 11:44 am | Permalink

    Wrong answers are allowed because god? They really crossed the line this time. This REALLY pisses me off.

    https://www.blitzwatch.org/

    • Saul Sorrell-Till
      Posted November 15, 2019 at 12:11 pm | Permalink

      God kind of IS the ultimate wrong answer, so you can’t blame them on that. Secular education is the single most deadly enemy religion has.

      • Mark R.
        Posted November 15, 2019 at 1:06 pm | Permalink

        For me, the most deadly enemy religion has is religion itself. But perhaps it takes a secular education to come to that conclusion…

  11. ThyroidPlanet
    Posted November 15, 2019 at 11:46 am | Permalink

    Where does one start?

    “truth” and “fact” – are those concepts anywhere in this?

  12. James Heard
    Posted November 15, 2019 at 11:48 am | Permalink

    I’ll bet you Ohio’s excuse a hundred fifty years ago was that their students didn’t know any better; now they not only don’t know any better their religion MAKES them stupid 🤷‍♂️

  13. Posted November 15, 2019 at 11:55 am | Permalink

    Looking forward to Stork Theory as an alternative to Reproductive Biology being used as an answer

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted November 15, 2019 at 11:59 am | Permalink

      I’m personally looking forward to the teachings of the Ptolemaic model of the universe and the miasma theory of disease.

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted November 15, 2019 at 5:03 pm | Permalink

        Phlogiston Theory and Vitalism are electives.

    • Desnes Diev
      Posted November 15, 2019 at 1:50 pm | Permalink

      You also have the complete 4-elements periodic table:
      Fire – Water – Air – Earth (you can add Void if you’re fancy. And you can change the elements’ names if your Asian.)

      Far easier to memorize than the other one. Should bring more students to the (al)chemistry classes.

      • darrelle
        Posted November 15, 2019 at 2:04 pm | Permalink

        Wait a minute. Void? I thought The Fifth Element was a perfect being in the form of a scrawny red-head with a cute accent? (Multipass?!)

        • Ken Kukec
          Posted November 15, 2019 at 5:06 pm | Permalink

          I dunno; I’d describe Ms. Jovovich as lean and fit rather than “scrawny,” but then maybe that’s just me.

        • Desnes Diev
          Posted November 16, 2019 at 6:30 pm | Permalink

          For Terry Pratchett, at least in Thief of Time, the 5th element is Surprise.

        • Posted November 18, 2019 at 12:19 pm | Permalink

          The fifth (Aristotlean) element is the divine element, boron^H^H^H^H^H aither.

      • Posted November 18, 2019 at 12:18 pm | Permalink

        Don’t forget aither, which might matter to the Catholics (given Thomas Aquinas and all).

  14. uommibatto
    Posted November 15, 2019 at 11:57 am | Permalink

    This is utterly crazy, of course, but couldn’t such students simply write “Here is the answer you want” and give the right answer, and then say “but I don’t believe it.” That way, they could have it both ways.

  15. Matt
    Posted November 15, 2019 at 11:58 am | Permalink

    They already had a solution available to them: send their kid to a Christian school where he can regurgitate all the goddidit nonsense he likes and not only will he not be penalized he’ll be praised.

  16. Posted November 15, 2019 at 12:07 pm | Permalink

    “That gives no guidelines about what to do when a student says that the Bible says that the Earth is 10,000 years old, …”

    As I read it, you’d give zero credit because: “scores shall be calculated using ordinary academic standards …”.

    In doing so you are neither penalising nor rewarding the religious content (and so are in accord with the bill), indeed you are ignoring that content entirely (all you’re doing is assessing the presence or absence of a correct answer; ignoring anything extraneous).

    So, if a student answered “scientifically the Earth is said to be 4.5 billion years old; however scripture tells us that it is actually 10,000 years old”, then you’d award full credit.

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted November 15, 2019 at 1:14 pm | Permalink

      And I have to wonder, is that any different than what is done today? The correct answer is there and the student answered it. The rest was just extraneous personal information.

    • David Campbell
      Posted November 15, 2019 at 3:49 pm | Permalink

      “So, if a student answered “scientifically the Earth is said to be 4.5 billion years old; however scripture tells us that it is actually 10,000 years old”, then you’d award full credit.”

      No. This teacher would award zero credit for offering internally contradicting answers to a simple science-based question. There is a correct scientific answer. It is the only one in the state standards and, therefore,it is the only one on my answer key/markscheme. I expect students to give me the most correct answer. If one gives me two answers, I don’t guess which one he/she wants me to count.

      The law in Florida that Jonathan mentioned in Post 1 is a bit different in that students are still required to answer questions in accordance with the state standards and I made damn sure we had the scientifically correct versions of evolution and selection in the standards when I helped write them. Students who provided religious answers to questions on my biology tests/quizzes/assignments received 0 credit with an accompanying note repeating a message I repeated in class several times each year. “This is the way the evidence says the world works. You don’t have to believe it but I expect you to understand it and be able to explain it back to me.” It helped that there was usually an essay question on my tests worth 20% of the final grade. Writing “God did it.” or something similar automatically dropped a student’s grade half way to failing the exam.

      I was ready every year to discuss creationism in my classroom during class time with any student who brought me peer reviewed experimental evidence supporting it. Not once did I ever have to engage in that conversation.

      • Posted November 15, 2019 at 3:53 pm | Permalink

        Well, I was interpreting this law, rather than suggesting what one “should” do.

      • Hempenstein
        Posted November 17, 2019 at 9:11 am | Permalink

        David – since yours has probably been a thankless effort, I just want to thank you for our efforts.

    • JoshP
      Posted November 18, 2019 at 8:28 am | Permalink

      I have lived all my life in error! I was sure the world is around 6,000 YO.

  17. Posted November 15, 2019 at 12:37 pm | Permalink

    “Assignment grades and scores shall be calculated using ordinary academic standards of substance and relevance … and shall not penalize or reward a student based on the religious content of a student’s work.”

    I think this is actually harmless. If I set a question on radiometric dating, and the student stated that radiometric dating is unreliable because Genesis, I would never dream of penalising them. Of course I wouldn’t give any credit either, since they hadn’t answered the question.

    I remember once giving top marks to a student for a tightly argued essay that denied the existence of human-cause global warming, which I used it as occasion to examine and expose the denialist arguments. However, I can’t imagine a similar situation with creationism, since in this case arguments worth discussing simply do not exist.

    • Matt
      Posted November 16, 2019 at 10:18 am | Permalink

      How do you figure injecting faith into science’s methodological naturalism is “harmless”?

    • Posted November 18, 2019 at 12:21 pm | Permalink

      It isn’t harmless because the requirements are *almost* a contradiction.

  18. Jonathan Gallant
    Posted November 15, 2019 at 12:39 pm | Permalink

    “But I think it’s more likely that teachers would avoid this whole issue by not asking questions that could lead to religiously-inspired answers. But that means no evolutionary biology at all, and not many biology teachers want to avoid teaching evolution, even in the American South.”
    My understanding is that this at least used to be precisely the case: Biology teaching in American schools tended to avoid the subject of evolution. I remember being struck by Biology textbooks which included up-to-date information on DNA sequencing, but left out anything about the history of life.

  19. JezGrove
    Posted November 15, 2019 at 12:49 pm | Permalink

    The Ohio legislators got the answer wrong, so at least they practice what they preach. I use that last word advisedly.

  20. Neil Wolfe
    Posted November 15, 2019 at 1:06 pm | Permalink

    I would have had so much fun with this if it were the law when I was in school. I’d answer any question I didn’t know with “Jesus”. Especially in algebra class where X always equals Jesus. I can practically hear my teenage self saying “It’s, like, my sincerely held belief ‘n shit”.

  21. Posted November 15, 2019 at 1:16 pm | Permalink

    At least they will be well prepared for entry to Liberty University in Virginia

  22. Mark R.
    Posted November 15, 2019 at 1:21 pm | Permalink

    It’s unbelievable that 2/3rds of an American governing body has no understanding of the 1st Amendment; or worse, they understand, but now believe the bible, after 200+ years, is suddenly above the Constitution. What a fucking joke! Too bad the laugh’s on the students of the Ohio “public” schools. (I’m assuming the bill will eventually be signed by the governor.)

    And this from DeWine’s official website:

    From world class cities to some of the best small towns in America, Mike DeWine knows that to build our state into an economic powerhouse, we must have strong schools… Yeah, good luck with that.

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted November 15, 2019 at 1:48 pm | Permalink

      I think the most devout believe their god’s law is first and foremost above any “worldly” law (which is dangerous) and the rest of the tepidly devotional believe that having “god in schools” is important to the success of the student in teaching them morals. It’s very sad. It will just make the population dumber.

      • Mark R.
        Posted November 16, 2019 at 12:49 am | Permalink

        God in schools doesn’t seem to work. Sixteen year old on his birthday kills 2, other bullshit continues, miscued suicide. WTF America? One catastrophe after another creates a dull populace I guess.

  23. grasshopper
    Posted November 15, 2019 at 1:38 pm | Permalink

    And what happens if your reliously inspired answers are based upon the Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region Council of 1879, instead of the Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region Council of 1912?”

  24. KD
    Posted November 15, 2019 at 1:43 pm | Permalink

    Ah, an ethnic studies curriculum for right-wingers. How touching!

  25. Posted November 15, 2019 at 2:05 pm | Permalink

    I suggest a work-around. Simply word the questions where the student is compelled to show they know the science. Here is an example:
    “The majority of scientists have concluded that the earth is ………. years old (fill in the blank)”.
    They cannot say 10,000 since that is not what most scientists say.

    It still sucks. But it would work.

    • ThyroidPlanet
      Posted November 15, 2019 at 2:07 pm | Permalink

      Or how about different grades?

      So A for fact/truth based achievement, A_R for religious-exemption record keeping.

    • Posted November 18, 2019 at 12:22 pm | Permalink

      Doesn’t that open matters up to a “no true scientist” round of fallacies?

  26. CR
    Posted November 15, 2019 at 3:09 pm | Permalink

    Ohio needs another John Scopes (and Clarence Darrow).

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted November 15, 2019 at 5:14 pm | Permalink

      FWIW, Darrow began practicing in Ashtabula, OH, before he moved to Chicago.

  27. Randall Schenck
    Posted November 15, 2019 at 3:53 pm | Permalink

    I am guessing this is the last post of the day so I just wanted to throw out a couple of historic things about the hearings that most are probably not watching and don’t have time.

    On Wednesday it was discovered that another phone call was made from Trump to one of his boys in Ukraine at a restaurant, the day after his famous phone call with the president of Ukraine. He was asking how his investigations of Biden and the 2016 interference was going. Two other people at the restaurant heard this call.

    Today, in the middle of the testimony by the previous Ambassador Yovanovitch, Trump decided to tweet out an intimidating comment about her. When Shiff discovered this had happened he stopped the hearings to talk about it and told Yovanovitch. So Trump did some witness tampering live on TV.

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted November 15, 2019 at 5:40 pm | Permalink

      Interesting to see that not a single Republican tried to defend Rudy Giuliani’s sliming of Ambassador Yovanovich (or to defend Trump’s description of her to to Ukraine president Zelenskiy as “bad news”) — not even Jim Jordan, the living proof that those who can’t do, teach; those who can’t teach, teach Gym; and those who can’t teach Gym, run for congress in Ohio’s 4th district.

      • Randall Schenck
        Posted November 15, 2019 at 6:47 pm | Permalink

        Yes, the Trump Kool-Aid drinkers were on full display this week and came up way short. Even the council for the republicans was mostly a joke. Like you guys say – If you can’t argue the evidence, argue the law. If you can’t argue the law pound the table. The republicans can’t even pound a table.

        Why would Stone so easily go to jail for this idiot. I suppose Stone is more the idiot than Trump.

        • Randall Schenck
          Posted November 15, 2019 at 7:08 pm | Permalink

          This is an OP Ed that was in the Post tonight about Marie Vovanovitch 33 year foreign service veteran who was removed from her post in Ukraine and attacked by the sleeze president Trump. I hope you can read it.

          https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2019/11/15/yovanovitch-honored-her-oath-its-time-other-officials-did-same/?wpisrc=nl_danamilbank

        • Ken Kukec
          Posted November 15, 2019 at 7:30 pm | Permalink

          Have you seen the just-released opening statement of David Holmes, the political counsel at the US embassy in Kyiv, who testified behind closed doors late today?

          It buries Trump even deeper than the testimony of Yovanovich (or of Taylor and Kent on Wednesday). It’s devastating. And Holmes identifies two other witnesses who overheard Gordon Sondland’s telephone conversation with Trump on July 26th of this year — the conversation where Trump says he “doesn’t give a shit” about Ukraine itself, only about getting dirt on the Bidens.

          In-fuckin’-credible.

          • Randall Schenck
            Posted November 16, 2019 at 7:17 am | Permalink

            And very secure telephone conversation eh, in a public place in Ukraine for Russia and every other country to listen in. If they don’t remove this guy, the republicans are stone cold idiots. Why don’t they just vote Putin? At least then they would be getting a dictator with a few more brain cells.

  28. Matt Young
    Posted November 15, 2019 at 4:04 pm | Permalink

    Tim Sandefur, a lawyer, just posted a piece on The Panda’s Thumb here https://pandasthumb.org/archives/2019/11/ohio-bill.html. I have not read all the comments on this thread, but Mr. Sandefur is not as optimistic as some that the bill is harmless.

  29. Ken Kukec
    Posted November 15, 2019 at 4:09 pm | Permalink

    The proposed Ohio statute is anything but a model of statutory clarity. If all it means is that a student may, for example, choose a religious theme when preparing a project for an art class or when writing an essay for English comp, then I think it passes constitutional muster.

    If, OTOH, it impinges on schools’ scientific curricula, I’m sure courts would find it unconstitutional under the rationale of Edwards v. Aguillard.

    I haven’t thought this through completely yet, but, given the rank imprecision of the legislative language, and depending upon the specific circumstances under which litigation may arise, the statute might be held to run afoul of the First Amendment’s “void for vagueness” doctrine.

  30. Posted November 15, 2019 at 4:10 pm | Permalink

    “Prohibits schools from restricting a student from engaging in religious expression in completion of homework, artwork and other assignments.”

    The counter of this—allowing schools to restrict a student from engaging in religious expression in completion of homework, artwork and other assignments—strikes me as far more draconian and in conflict with the First Amendment.

    Further, as I read the bill itself, it seems to be saying that you can’t penalize a student because their expression is religion-based but you can penalize them because their expression is wrong according to “ordinary academic standards of substance and relevance, including any legitimate pedagogical concerns.” In other words, a student who claims that the sun revolves around the earth can’t be penalized because the claim is religion-based but can be penalized because the claim is wrong according to “ordinary academic standards.”

    Maybe I’m missing something, but I really can’t see what the problem is.

    • Posted November 15, 2019 at 4:19 pm | Permalink

      If a student, in answering a question about chemistry, went on about anything irrelevant, like Jesus (or fairies) making chemical bonds, that would deserve a penalty because it’s NOT THE ANSWER THAT’S RELEVANT TO THE COURSE. The whole thing about religion becomes irrelevant if you just say that all student answers must be judged by ordinary academic standards. Why do they have to throw in the bit about religion, which is completely irrelevant if “ordinary academic standards” are what the bill’s sponsors want? There are all manner of irrelevant answers to questions, some faith based and some not. Why single out religion for something that can’t be penalized. You could equally well say that if a student says that benzene’s double bonds are made by fairies, that can’t be penalized on fairy-tale grounds but can be penalized on “normal academic standards” grounds. There’s simply no need to drag religion into this unless you’re somehow trying to sneak it into academia.

      • Posted November 15, 2019 at 6:42 pm | Permalink

        “The whole thing about religion becomes irrelevant if you just say that all student answers must be judged by ordinary academic standards.”

        Yes, I see your point. But the reality of the situation is that the likelihood of a student complaining about being unfairly penalized because of his religious views is far greater than his complaining about same on the grounds of, say, fairyphobia. That the school has a code in place explicitly prohibiting this provides systemic support for the teacher who puts ordinary academic standards above religious superstition. I’m still not convinced this is a bad thing.

        • Saul Sorrell-Till
          Posted November 16, 2019 at 7:03 am | Permalink

          It’s not meant to be a Bad Thing; it’s purposely constructed so that people will say ‘what’s the big deal’? And in the process the wedge is pushed a few centimetres deeper.

          Eventually we end up at a place that is very, very bad, all because of a thousand seemingly-unobjectionable, incremental religious incursions like this.

  31. Michael Fisher
    Posted November 15, 2019 at 5:40 pm | Permalink

    Seems to be an unnecessary bill. SNOPES has this to say:

    …others, including the bill’s sponsor, maintained that students would still be required to provide answers that conformed to the curriculum as taught:

    [Rep. Timothy] Ginter, the bill’s sponsor, said that the student would get a lesser grade in a biology class for an evolution assignment. Even if the student doesn’t believe in evolutionary theory, the student must turn in work that accurately reflects what is taught.

    “It will be graded using ordinary academic standards of using substance and relevance,” he said.

    “This doesn’t give student a get-out-of-jail free card”

  32. Mark Joseph
    Posted November 15, 2019 at 8:07 pm | Permalink

    I highly suspect that the readership of this esteemed website will appreciate this Calvin and Hobbes cartoon.

  33. Tim
    Posted November 16, 2019 at 5:15 am | Permalink

    I look forward to seeing the case of a student suing his or her school for downgrading an essay based on belief in the Flying Spaghetti Monster.

  34. ThyroidPlanet
    Posted November 16, 2019 at 6:52 am | Permalink

    I think a requirement of this religious exemption should be, when opting out (in the parlance of our time) of facts and truth, to declare the religion for which the exemption is made. A record should be kept, and vetted.

  35. mightyog
    Posted November 16, 2019 at 10:08 am | Permalink

    I once had students who were YECs – young-Earth creationists – and who denied evolutionary and geological theory. I made it clear that even if they did not believe it, I expected them to understand it and be able to articulate it. I called it my “Know Thy Enemy” approach.

    • Posted November 16, 2019 at 11:54 am | Permalink

      I’ve had a similar situation now and again. My method was a ‘give unto Caesar what belongs to Caesar’ approach.

  36. Posted November 16, 2019 at 11:41 am | Permalink

    This poem by former Poet Laureate William Stafford seems somehow appropriate to this thread. Appropriate or not, it’s one of my favorite Stafford poems and worth sharing.

    RELIGION BACK HOME

    1)
    When God’s parachute failed,
    about the spring of 1945,
    the sky in Texas jerked open
    and we all sailed easily
    into this new strange harness on the stars.

    2)
    The minister smoked,
    and he drank,
    and there was that woman in the choir,
    but what really finished him —
    he wore spats.

    3)
    A Short Review of Samson Agonistes
    Written for Miss Arrington’s Class
    in Liberal High School:

    Our Father Who art in Heaven
    can lick their Father Who art in Heaven.

    4)
    When my little brother chanted,
    “In 1492 Jesus crossed the ocean blue,”
    Mother said, “Bob, you mean
    Columbus crossed the ocean blue.”
    And he said, “I always did get
    them two guys mixed up.”

  37. Rob Aron
    Posted November 16, 2019 at 11:59 pm | Permalink

    As I understand it, God at some point declared Pi to be equal to 3.0. He even inspired someone to write it down and He then inspired someone else to include that writing in His Bible.
    Does that mean religionist children will be allowed to believe that nonsense in Ohio?

  38. ThyroidPlanet
    Posted November 17, 2019 at 3:34 pm | Permalink

    In theory :

    Couldn’t teachers invoke an exemption as well? Since a teacher could be a naturalist, they could be exempt from grading an answer which itself is invoking a religious exemption.

  39. Ullrich Fischer
    Posted November 18, 2019 at 2:30 pm | Permalink

    This is clearly a job for the Satanic Temple. They need to take advantage of this law to set up their own after-school bible study classes in Ohio.

  40. Posted November 20, 2019 at 4:52 pm | Permalink

    Over the years, I have taught in several schools, coached, tutored, and listened to kids discuss. I have no difficulty with students who have a strong religious view on things. If they can reason, explain their positions, we’ve accomplished what we hoped for: that they can express themselves, experience real free speech, and can share ideas among their peers. But remember, there is a teacher in the classroom.
    As a teacher, I am working to ensure the students have their basic skills, then learn to read and write well, understanding the subject matters, able to support their ideas. And yes, I have no problem with a child saying they believe something because that’s what they grew up believing. But again, there is a teacher in the room.
    As a teacher, I believe I must be well-educated, and having experiences in business, working with my hands, and researching topics over the years, I come to the class prepared for whatever is brought up. There’s no fear here. Yes, I do believe decency and responsibility are very necessary, common sense a huge part, and those of us with understanding know how to keep ourselves open, but also be respectful for their ages and parents. You believe in Catholicism. Okay. Would you like to share your views? You believe in Muslim. Okay. Would you like to share your views? You believe there is nothing after life on Earth. Okay. Would you like to share your views? But with me, they’re safe.
    Why? Because I don’t over-react to idea. If I don’t over-react, not fearful of views, then I can explain to the kids that people have different views. Does this mean they’re right? No. Of course not. But we shouldn’t be afraid that someone believes something different from ourselves. We can hear. We can listen. We don’t have to accept. We don’t have to believe. This is something we all could learn. To hear without making judgements. But yes, some things are not appropriate, and people of understanding know this. There’s a teacher in the room. And as a teacher, I must be mindful and know what’s appropriate and what’s not. We used to have a nation that understood this. It’s not hard. And being able to hear others, but stand strong in what we believe, unafraid. You’re ideas are challenged by others’ beliefs? You’re starting to doubt your own beliefs because of what someone else believes? Okay. It’s your journey. You now get to look for the answers to your questions. You get to follow your road. But don’t be intimidated by different views. Could they be wrong? You betcha. Is it okay to not believe another’s views? You betcha. Just don’t react and live in fear. Be calm and in calmness are the answers. Wait. Be patient. Wonder. Watch. Stay honest. And answers do come.
    We live in times when debates and different views are scaring people. Why? People need to learn to have beliefs, but also reason why they believe. This is how we arrive at understanding. And if you don’t know, it’s okay not to know. Then, we get to venture through life, wondering and looking for the answers, or just live and let live.
    Look, in science, we have a lot that has been written. I myself have seen questionable things in those science books. I researched. I observed. I considered. I explain to the kids this is what was written, and when you answer, you’re simply providing information from the books, whether you agree or not. And if you don’t agree, that’s okay, but the assignment is what was written regarding the questions. I can explain what someone else wrote, but disagree at the same time. I have no difficulty with this. So, if the kids have different answers, good. As a teacher, I would rewrite the questions: What does the book say about this. Then, if you have a different view, share that afterwards.

    • Posted November 20, 2019 at 4:57 pm | Permalink

      This is your first comment, or rather, essay. Please read the Roolz on the sidebar and try not to write such long comments in the future. And your essay says the same thing over and over again; you could have made your point in about a third or less of the space. I’d give it a flat C.


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