Educational Anarchy: CFI Blasts Ohio Bill Saying Students’ Religious Beliefs Trump Reality


For Immediate Release: November 15, 2019
Contact: Paul Fidalgo, Communications Director
press@centerforinquiry.org - (207) 358-9785

The Center for Inquiry (CFI) today responded with astonishment and anger to the passage through the Ohio House of Representatives of a law which will result in Ohio public schools having to accept the religious beliefs of students as of equal validity to factual answers in science classes. 

This law is part of an escalating effort by dark money-funded Christian Nationalist organizations to impose their narrow interpretation of Christianity nationwide. The law, titled the Ohio Student Religious Liberties Act of 2019, includes a provision stating that “[a]ssignment grades and scores … shall not penalize or reward a student based on the religious content of a student’s work.” It now moves to the Ohio Senate, and then to the desk of the Governor.

The Act mirrors prefabricated legislation written and disseminated as part of Project Blitz, an active plot by the Congressional Prayer Caucus Foundation to impose Christian Nationalism on Americans through a flurry of lawmaking in the states. A model “Preserving Religious Freedom in School Act” appears on page 122 of the most recent Project Blitz manual (available here). Similar laws have been proposed or enacted in Florida, Tennessee, Texas, and Oklahoma.

“This law represents a new low in the ongoing efforts of the religious right to force Christianity into our secular public school system,” said Nick Little, CFI’s Vice President and General Counsel. “Our schools should be about facts, not beliefs. Under this law, a high school teacher would be compelled to treat as correct student claims that the earth is 10,000 years old, or that evolution did not occur, provided that student held them as religious beliefs. Even in math class, a student could claim a biblical belief that the value of pi was 3, and could not be corrected. It’s completely contrary to the very notion of education.”

By privileging religious beliefs over and above all other student-held beliefs, the law violates the neutrality towards religion that both the state and federal constitutions mandate. “If you want to teach your children that cavemen rode dinosaurs, or that all but two of each animal were killed in a global flood, then the place to do that is at home or in church,” continued Little. “But you can’t insist that your children be allowed to essentially invent their own answers to questions in science class. That’s not science, it’s educational anarchy.”

CFI is a non-profit organization dedicated to the promotion of science, reason, freedom of inquiry, and humanist values. Its core mission is to ensure both the protection of the separation of church and state, as well as ensuring the role of science in society and public policy making. 

CFI’s Director of Government Affairs, Jason Lemieux, pledged to fight to prevent this bill becoming law in Ohio. “If our schools cannot teach truth in science classes, and must accept any religious belief as equal to proven facts, then why are we bothering having schools in the first place? CFI will not abandon Ohio’s students to this nonsense. We will be working to stop this bill in the Senate and examining all possible legal challenges to this assault on citizens’ rights to a quality, secular public education.”

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The Center for Inquiry (CFI) is a nonprofit educational, advocacy, and research organization headquartered in Amherst, New York, with executive offices in Washington, D.C. It is also home to the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason & Science, the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry, and the Council for Secular Humanism. The Center for Inquiry strives to foster a secular society based on reason, science, freedom of inquiry, and humanist values. Visit CFI on the web at centerforinquiry.org.