Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine signed the Student Religious Liberties Act into law Friday, a bill that protects prayer and religious expression in public schools.
“No student should have to hide their faith just because they enter a public school. The Student Religious Liberties Act is carefully crafted to ensure school administrators can’t unfairly penalize students of all faiths, or no faith,” said Aaron Baer, president of Citizens for Community Values, one of twelve groups that testified in support of the bill.
“While the ACLU and atheist organizations may have tried to stop this bill, and prevent Christian, Jewish, Muslim and all students from having fundamental protections, Ohio lawmakers stood up for the First Amendment and have sent a clear message that the Buckeye State respects a diversity of viewpoints,” he added.
The bill also requires schools to provide religious groups with the same access to school facilities as secular groups.
According to Baer, state Rep. Tim Ginter (R-Salem), the primary sponsor of the bill, has “pressed this legislation forward for the last three General Assemblies.”
“It shouldn’t be controversial to stand for religious freedom,” Baer continued. “Through roadblocks and attacks, Rep. Ginter was a steady hand to get this legislation done.”
Ginter said the Student Religious Liberties Act received four committee hearings and gained over 60 cosponsors within both legislative chambers.
“I’m grateful seeing this important bill regarding expression, which is protected by our First Amendment, become law in Ohio,” he said in a press release. “This will ensure students’ rights at a public school to engage in religious expression in the same way students can participate in secular activities.”
The bill received unanimous support in the Senate and passed the House in a vote of 90-3, with all three votes against the bill coming from Democrats.
“This bill ensures that students’ First Amendment rights are protected in Ohio schools,” Senate President Larry Obhof (R-Medina), a co-sponsor of the bill, said in a statement. “Today is an important step forward for religious freedom.”
Since the bill contained a number of amendments related to the upcoming school year, it was passed as an emergency measure and became effective immediately.
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