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Ohio will begin awarding public school credit for private religious classes
Despite prohibitions against using public money, the ACLU expects schools will trip over into endorsing religion

Web Editor
M.L. Schultze
Ohio is about to join South Carolina in allowing public school credit for private religious classes.
Courtesy of Jake Wasdin, Creative Commons
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Ohio is about to become the second state in the country to allow high school students to get credits towards graduation for private religious instruction. WKSU’s M.L. Schultze has more on a bill that’s likely to lead to a lawsuit.

LISTEN: The debate over religious instruction and schools

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A bill passed by Ohio lawmakers this week allows school districts to award up to two elective credits for religious instruction. The bill stipulates that no public money can be spent on the instruction and allows parents and school districts to opt out. One of its sponsors, state Rep. Jeff McClain, says the districts also can ensure standards.

“They have a say-so on the rigor of the class, they can’t tell you what you can and cannot teach, but the actual quality of the class. They have the authority to say what the requirements of the teacher may be and it’s a real positive thing. It goes real well, and South Carolina’s had the law about four or five years and now Ohio will have it.”

But Christine Link, the head of the Ohio Chapter of the ACLU says – even without public money -- the bill meshes government into religion.

“We all know as former students and parents of current students that credits are pretty important, particularly in modern education, where there’s so much drive for skilled based education. This is kind of giving you a free pass for your religious education.

Still, Link says the ACLU will not sue to stop the bill. But it will be watching its implementation. She expects that’s when unconstitutional practices – and a lawsuit by her group – will kick in.

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