Ohio House Bill 171, introduced by Representative Bill Patmon (D-10), would allow students to receive credit for studying religion during what is called release time. If passed, Ohio would be the second state to give credit for religious study during the school day. It’s too bad that Rep. Patmon reasons for the law are based on false assumptions and it looks like just an attempt to subvert court decisions that keep church and state separate in public schools.
Here is the text for the proposed law as introduced on May 21st 2013:
Section 1. That section 3313.6018 of the Revised Code be enacted to read as follows:
Sec. 3313.6018. (A) As used in this section, “released time” means a period of time during which a student is excused from school to attend a course in religious instruction conducted by a private entity off school district property.
(B) A school district board of education may adopt a policy that authorizes a student to be excused from school to attend a released time course in religious instruction, provided that each of the following applies:
(1) The student’s parent or guardian gives written consent.
(2) The sponsoring entity maintains attendance records and makes them available to the school district the student attends.
(3) Transportation to and from the place of instruction, including transportation for students with disabilities, is the complete responsibility of the sponsoring entity, parent, guardian, or student.
(4) The sponsoring entity makes provisions for and assumes liability for the student.
(5) No public funds are expended and no public school personnel are involved in providing the religious instruction.
(6) The student assumes responsibility for any missed schoolwork.
While in attendance in a released time course in religious instruction, a student shall not be considered absent from school. No student may be released from a core curriculum subject course to attend a religious instruction course.
(C) A policy adopted under division (B) of this section may authorize high school students to earn up to two units of high school credit for the completion of a released time course in religious instruction. In determining whether to award credit for completion of such a course, the board shall evaluate the course based on purely secular criteria that are substantially the same criteria used to evaluate similar nonpublic high school courses for purposes of determining whether to award credit for such courses to a student transferring from a nonpublic high school to a public high school. However, there shall be no criteria requiring that released time courses be completed only at a nonpublic school. The decision to award credit for a released time course of religious instruction shall be neutral to, and shall not involve any test for, religious content or denominational affiliation.
For purposes of this division, secular criteria may include, but are not limited to, the following:
(1) The number of hours of classroom instruction time;
(2) A review of the course syllabus that reflects course requirements and materials used;
(3) The methods of assessment used in the course;
(4) The qualifications of the course instructor.
Notwithstanding division (C)(8) of section 3313.603 of the Revised Code, high school credit awarded to a student for a released time course in religious instruction may substitute for the same amount of credit in subjects listed in that division.
The gist is credit will be given as long as no tax dollars fund the classes, no transportation is provided, and the student is responsible for all missed course work. Attending the classes is voluntary.
Sounds fabulous right?
I note the way the law is written any student could be given release time although the “credit” would only count toward high school graduation.
In a report on WBNS 10tv Monday evening the ACLU responded:
But Gary Daniels from the American Civil Liberties Union says it could cause unforeseen issues.
“It could open up a bunch of Pandora’s Boxes, let’s say,” said Daniels.
Daniels says awarding credit to a student who may be learning something that’s opposite from what’s being taught in the classroom is a bad idea.
It was also reported that Rep. Patmon gave reasons for introducing the bill:
Rep. Bill Patmon, a Democrat from Cleveland, said he’s sponsoring the bill because “God has been taken out of the schools.”
He says he wants students to be taught ethics and to learn about a variety of religions.
The only thing related to God taken out of schools was letting school teachers or administrations lead or direct prayers, requiring bible reading, and teaching creationism in place of Evolution. Students can learn about different religions in appropriate classes like social studies and history. There isn’t a need for a special law for that.
It also isn’t a given that only God can give one ethics. There are millions of non-religious people who act ethically everyday and there are millions of believers who are in prison for acting unethically. I would rather my children learn ethics using non-religious sources.
The other statement made in the story that caught my ear was from Monty Lobb, a professor of Business and Government at Ohio Christian University:
My understanding is it would include world religions, so to me the more ideas you can have in the marketplace, the better off we are.
More ideas in the marketplace? Religious ideas, no matter where they come from, aren’t the same as the ideas that need to be taught in school today.
Religious education should be between the student, the parents and their particular faith. Religious education needs to stay out of the public schools.
I embedded the video shown on the news and I wanted make a comment on the report. Reporter Jim Heath did an okay job reporting the story. I did have some quibbles. He starts the story mentioning the motto “In God We Trust” on the back of our paper currency without giving any context like it being put there as a response to communism in the 1950’s.
Heath did point out again the conflict of giving school credit for learning creationism while also being taught the correct science in school but he didn’t use the opportunity to mention what is allowed in public schools without a special law.