The Ohio House of Representatives is close to passing HB 164, an outrageous bill that gives special privileges to religious students in public schools. The Senate already passed this bill unanimously — this may be our last chance to stop it!
The vague language of this bill allows students in public schools to engage in religious activities at any time throughout the day. If students are allowed to interrupt class to pray, distribute religious materials, or leave to go to a religious gathering, holding class is effectively impossible.
HB 164 fosters religious coercion and allows the religious expression of some students to interfere with the education of other students.
This bill needlessly replaces the reasonable provision that “The board of education may limit the exercise or expression of the pupil’s religious beliefs… to lunch periods or other noninstructional time periods when pupils are free to associate.” Tell Ohio lawmakers that existing laws protecting religious liberty in Ohio have worked well for nearly 20 years. There is no reason to repeal those protections in favor of this harmful bill!
Moreover, this bill fails to protect religious minorities and nonreligious students, who are at significantly higher risk for discrimination in education based on their beliefs. The U.S. Secular Survey found that nearly one third (29.4%) of participants experienced discrimination or other negative events in education because of their nonreligious identity. It is not acceptable for Ohio lawmakers to compound this problem by granting special privileges to religious students.