First Liberty Testifies Before Ohio Legislature

June 7, 2024
First Liberty Ohio Legislature | First Liberty Insider

by Logan Tantibanchachai • 4 min read

Of Counsel Matt Krause, an independent legal and policy advisor to First Liberty, recently testified at the Ohio legislature. He spoke before the House Primary and Secondary Education Committee in support of a bill that would further protect parent’s and student’s free exercise of religion in primary and secondary education.

Under state law, school districts “may adopt a policy that authorizes a student to be excused from school to attend a released time course in religious instruction.” However, because of the usage of “may” in the Ohio Revised Code, many schools have refused to create a sound policy.

HB 445 would replace the word “may” with “shall.” In his testimony, Matt Krause explains that “while this is a minor change in wording, it has very important implications.” By shifting the language, school districts must allow students to be excused from school for religious instruction.

The proposed legislation gives Ohio students more freedom to attend religious instruction.

This bill does not establish a specific religion, nor does it even mandate the attendance of such programs. All it does is make sure that if parents want to send their children to religious instruction during released-time, then they will be able to.

Fundamentally, the parents’ relationship to their child’s education represents an underlying principle of the bill.

“The legislature has rightly recognized that parents should be in control over their child’s educational efforts” and that “includes release-time programs,” Krause said. “The question before this committee is whether Ohio will allow parents to dictate the educational choices of their children, or will school boards have final say over what their children can learn or participate in during school hours.”

If this bill were to pass and become law, it would not only protect parental rights but also religious organizations that are doing great work to help students better understand and learn more about the Bible or the faith-based material they choose.

First Liberty client LifeWise Academy is one ministry that will be impacted by this bill. They are an Ohio-based nonprofit that works with public schools to integrate a Bible class into students’ weekly schedule during school hours.

The ministry sends a bus to schools to pick up students so they can attend their Bible class. Participation is voluntary and parents are required to give their consent for their kids to attend. The program is privately funded and the class takes place off campus.

Krause concluded by pointing out that “release-time programs have been a massive success” in the Buckeye State, and passing this bill would “put parents in the driver’s seat of educational opportunities.”

If you want to watch Krause’s full testimony, we recommend visiting the Ohio Channel website. His remarks begin at 1:05:12.

Related News:

First Liberty: Defending a Ministry that Helps Students Study the Bible

First Liberty: First Liberty Attorney Testifies Before U.S. Commission on Civil Rights

First Liberty: Attorney Jeremy Dys Testifies Before House Judiciary Committee

First Liberty: Attorney Danielle Runyan Testifies Before House Oversight Committee

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