Bill could allow more religion in schools

Monday, March 10th 2008, 9:54 pm
By: News 9

By Mary Joseph, NEWS 9

An Oklahoma lawmaker is hoping his bill will create a level playing field for religion in the classroom.

Rep. Mike Reynolds said the bill is designed to protect the rights students already have, but opponents said it does much more than that and will allow religion in places in does not belong.

Dr. Victor Hutchison of Oklahomans for Excellence in Science Education disagrees with the bill.

"It is a Trojan horse," Hutchison said. "It is a sneaky written bill, unless you read it carefully."

The Religious Viewpoints Anti-Discrimination Act would allow students to "express their beliefs about religion in homework, artwork and other written and oral assignments and students shall not be penalized or rewarded on account of the religious content of their work," read the bill.

"The student could cite the Bible, the Koran or any other document they chose," Reynolds said. "It would allow students to give religious answers on exams where it's not part of the material being covered and students could not be marked down for it," Hutchison said.

Several organizations have spoken out about this piece of legislation. 

"Enactment of HB 2211 will poison education in science," said the Oklahoma Academy of Science in a press release. 

Mainstream Oklahoma Baptists said the bill is "too weak to adequately protect religious liberty and freedom of speech for all people."

Hutchison, a Christian, said the bill is more about keeping religion out of science.

"If the teacher asks a broad-based question, 'What do you believe about evolution?' The student would be free to say what they want, they would not have to cite a textbook that is against their beliefs," Reynolds said.

The bill passed committee but at last check did not make it on the House calendar. It must be on the calendar by Tuesday in order to move forward.

House Bill 2211 is modeled after a law in Texas.