New Law Allows School Credit For Religious Studies


Governor John Kasich has signed into law a bill that allows public high schools to give students credit for religious courses taken during school hours.

Both supporters and opponents of the bill agree they were surprised just how quickly it sailed through the House and Senate.

The leading proponent of this idea was a Democrat.  State representative Bill Patmon says he wrote the bill because, "God has been taken out of the schools."

Patmon says he wants students to be taught ethics, as well as learn about a variety of religions.  He emphasizes no public school money will be used.

Some students, like Michael Ringle, say it's a great idea.

"Being able to get religious credit would allow one to focus and go more in-depth with one’s religious studies," said Ringle.  "It would bring more of an objective religious perspective to ones courses that is often lacking."

But opponents say this is just a lawsuit waiting to happen.

Ohio is now just the second state, behind South Carolina, to allow this type of credit.

Gary Daniels from the ACLU says awarding credit to a student  - who may be learning something that's opposite from what's being taught in the classroom - raises questions.

"What happens if you have a kid who goes to biology or physics class and then goes outside the classroom and learns from somebody else that the earth and entire universe have only been around 10,000 years," said Daniels.  "Does the school have the ability to deny credit for that lesson?  I think that the legislation is so poorly written that it's at least an open question."

The US Supreme Court has ruled that allowing credit for religious studies outside of public school is constitutional, as long as it's voluntary.