Science v. Belief

If you believe, as a tenet of faith, that the earth is 6000 years old and dinosaurs walked the earth with humans, then Ohio Republicans want to be sure you suffer no academic consequences for expressing your belief in class or in your homework. The Ohio House of Representatives wants this made a matter of law.

Below I’ve copied a portion of Doug Muder’s Weekly Sift post from November 18, discussing a bill that recently passed the House in The State of Ohio. The indented quote-within-the-quote is buried on lines 424-428 of otherwise mind-numbing legal reading. It’s implications are broad and disturbing, for reasons Mr. Muder clearly explains. Ohio is far from Washington State, but the folks that pushed this bill have like-minded allies in every state legislature in the country.
Understanding that any legislature will have a few crazies, I try not to get excited about every ridiculous bill that gets introduced somewhere. (Most will vanish in committee and aren’t worth your outrage.) But Ohio’s “Student Religious Liberties Act” (full text) has passed the House and now moves to the [Ohio] Senate, so it’s worth paying attention to.

The bill states that no school authority (there’s a long list of them, starting with the local board of education)

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.

So six-day creation, Noah’s flood, light speeding up so that distant stars can be visible despite the universe only being 10,000 years old — if that’s what your religion says, you can express it on a test and still get an A. Heck, nothing in the bill restricts its scope to specific classes, so if your religion says 2 + 2 = 5, that’s an OK answer too.

The bill passed 61-31, with Republicans voting for it 59-0 and Democrats against it 2-31. Maybe the two parties really aren’t the same.
There is no specified penalty in this bill. The parents of a student receiving a B on homework in which the student incorporates religious expression may complain and point to the law–or they might sue the teacher as a “show” case (with the backing of Republican deep pockets). If I felt a calling to teach biology or geology in public school I would steer clear of Ohio.

Keep to the high ground,

P.S. I suspect Republican legislators vote in lockstep with the religious right on such matters on account of the bunker mentality of their Evangelical voters, a bunker mentality buttressed with propaganda campaigns like Bill O’Reilly’s “War on Christmas.” Read the section entitled “Present-day Controversy” in the wikipedia chapter “Christmas controversies” for enlightenment. Then steel yourself for the upcoming holidays and those old white men who growl “Merry Christmas” in response any less specifically religious greeting.