Ohio Offers An Excellent Reason to Never Elect Greg Gianforte Governor

Want another reason to fight tooth and nail to make sure that Greg Gianforte never becomes Montana’s governor? The Ohio House of Representatives just provided one:

On Wednesday the Ohio House of Representatives passed the “Student Religious Liberties Act,” a law prohibiting students from being penalized when their work is scientifically incorrect so long as they attribute it to their religious beliefs, a local news outlet reported. Rather than using silly metrics based on logic and demonstrable facts, teachers should instead grade students on “ordinary academic standards of substance and relevance” in these cases according to the bill. It doesn’t elaborate on how to parse that brazenly doublespeak decree.

That’s right. The intellectual lights of the Ohio Republican Party want to pass a law that would make it impossible for teachers to grade classwork because a student could simply cite her religious belief that evolution did not happen as an answer to a question about natural selection.

It’s an absurd, poorly-written and ill-conceived law that almost certainly wouldn’t pass constitutional muster if signed into law in Ohio, but it’s absolutely the kind of law the Montana Legislature and a Governor Gianforte would try to pass.

Imagine the intellectual value of a student citing Gianforte’s apparent belief that dinosaurs and humans walked the Earth together 6,000 years ago as an answer to a science question or a student in American Government class choosing to cite Gianforte’s belief that retirement runs counter to Biblical values when asked to explain the viability of the Social Security system.

And don’t even get me started on the kinds of answers teachers would have to accept in Health courses.

Entirely reasonable mockery of the education system Ohio Republicans and Greg Gianforte would likely support aside, the justifications for these laws rest on a fallacious claim Republicans have promulgated for years: that schools are hostile to religious belief.

It’s just not true.

In just the past week in my classes, students have wrestled with how Chinua Achebe alludes to and builds on the story of Abraham and Isaac in his novel Things Fall Apart and debated how the ethical standards of the New and Old Testaments compare with one another. They’ve compared Achebe’s description of the arrival of locusts to the story in Exodus in order to have a deeper understanding of the novel and an important story in Western culture.

Students have shared elements of their religious faith in a respectful environment where all—believers and non-believers alike—are encouraged to share their perspectives.

There are religious clubs on campus, students read personal books with religious themes, and no teacher has ever stopped a student from uttering a private prayer when a vocabulary quiz makes its way around the room. Good public schools treat religious views like any other: students are allowed to share, practice and believe whatever they want as long as the rights of others are not infringed.

What Ohio legislators and Greg Gianforte want isn’t to protect freedom of religious expression—that freedom exists in public schools today—but the imposition of a particular religious point of view. When they call for “prayer in school,” surely they know students can pray now but want to force students to participate in religious practices not their own.

To protect the religious freedom of students in Montana, feel free to pray (if that’s your thing) that he’s not elected. And prayer or not, let’s all make sure to do the work necessary to prevent it.

If you appreciate an independent voice holding Montana politicians accountable and informing voters, and you can throw a few dollars a month our way, we would certainly appreciate it.

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About the author

Don Pogreba

Don Pogreba has been writing about Montana politics since 2005 and teaching high school English since 2000. He's a former debate coach, and loyal, if often sad, fan of the San Diego Padres and Portland Timbers. He spends far too many hours of his life working at school and on his small business, Big Sky Debate.
His work has appeared in Politico and Rewire.
In the past few years, travel has become a priority, whether it's a road trip to some little town in Montana or a museum of culture in Ísafjörður, Iceland.


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  • What happened to Kansas, Wisconsin and Louisiana with modern Koch Republicans fully in control is “an excellent reason to never elect Greg Gianforte Governor” too!!!
    Modern Koch Republican policies decimated those states. Keep in mind Kansas was going to prove how great Modern Conservatism was with absolutely no Liberals, Progressives or Democrats in the way. What happened? Well, Kansas was absolutely gutted, jobs disappeared, wages were slashed, earned pensions and retirements were lost, local taxes went sky high, schools crumbled, the state went bankrupt, all services were cut to the bone, their credit rating tanked, they even started selling off pubic parks, etc. etc…. Kansas forever proved that modern Koch Republican policies are ALWAYS a race to the bottom, and the exact same thing happened to Wisconsin and Louisiana with Koch Republicans fully in charge.
    Gianforte is a classic Koch (AFP) Republican all the way, he will destroy Montana in one term if he is elected. Everything that makes Montana great including our public lands will be lost, Gianforte will “Brownback” Montana….mark my word.

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