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Students should be allowed to show faith

Ensuring public school students are not penalized because of their religious beliefs is a worthwhile goal, even if pitfalls are encountered during the process.

Last month Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine signed into law a bill intended to expand the religious freedom of students in public schools. It was approved by bipartisan majorities in the General Assembly.

Among the new law’s provisions is that students cannot b prohibited from expressing their faith in homework, art or other assignments — and that teachers cannot penalize them for doing so. Sadly, such discrimination still occurs on occasion.

Formerly, students in Ohio public schools were banned from expressing religious beliefs except during non-instructional periods such as lunch. The prohibition has been removed.

Critics of the bill insisted it was not needed, because religious freedom is required by the U.S. Constitution. That argument was flawed, however; courts have recognized in the past that some limits on constitutional rights for students are permissible. Ohio’s new law clarifies that, in effect.

American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio lobbyist Gary Daniels said the new law “may sound like a positive development, but it would be messier than anticipated.”

Probably so. There will be conflicts over the statute. Bet on it.

But as long as students are not infringing upon the rights of others and are not disrupting the educational process, there is no reason their rights regarding religious expression should be limited. Ohio’s new law may need refinements, but it is a positive step regarding individual liberty.

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