A bill that passed Ohio’s House of Representatives this week is being criticized by the American Civil Liberties Union for vague language that could prevent biology teachers from penalizing students who give creationist answers to questions about evolution.
Local news station WKRC reports that the legislation, which passed the House and is now awaiting debate in the Ohio Senate, states that “students can’t be penalized if their work is scientifically wrong as long as the reasoning is because of their religious beliefs.”
As Patheos notes, the specific language of the bill states that teachers shall not “prohibit a student from engaging in religious expression in the completion of homework, artwork, or other written or oral assignments” and “shall not penalize or reward a student based on the religious content of a student’s work.”
ACLU of Ohio Chief Lobbyist Gary Daniels tells the Cleveland Plain Dealer that this clause could restrict biology teachers from docking points off students who say that the Earth was created just thousands of years ago.
Rep. Timothy Ginter, a Republican lawmaker who is cosponsoring the bill, tells the Plain Dealer that the legislation isn’t intended to let students get away with giving creationist responses in biology classes, even though its language is broad enough to encompass that.
“Even if the student doesn’t believe in evolutionary theory, the student must turn in work that accurately reflects what is taught,” writes the Plain Dealer, explaining Ginter’s rationale.