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Gov. Mike DeWine signs ‘religious freedom’ bill

The bill also restores state K-12 funding cuts for some districts

KDKA Pittsburgh and Cleveland Plain Dealer |

The House bill introduced by Republican Rep. Tim Ginter in March 2019 (HB164) expands religious freedom in Ohio public schools and allows students to engage in religious expression in their school assignments. It was signed into law Friday by Republican Gov. Mike DeWine.

The Student Religious Liberties Act would remove a provision in current law limiting expressions of religious beliefs by public school students to lunch and non-instructional periods and would allow them to gather as students do for secular activities.

It also says schools can’t prohibit students from religious expression in homework, artwork or other assignments and teachers cannot penalize or reward work based on its religious content.

State lawmakers last week amended the House bill to bring extra school funding to two groups of schools.

  • Seventy generally suburban school districts, including 36 suburban districts in Greater Cleveland and Akron.
  • Eight school districts, mostly in rural Southern Ohio, where nearby power plants saw recent property tax devaluations of greater than 10%, leading to a corresponding drop in revenue for the school districts.

In addition, the bill will extend special education through telecommunications, allow school bus drivers to become certified over the internet and not in person, and not require third-graders to repeat the grade due to their scores on the reading test, among other changes.