The Anti-Fact Party

Here in Indiana, we joke about the time the Indiana House of Representatives passed a measure purportedly changing the value of  pi. That was in 1897, and Republicans controlled the chamber.

Things haven’t changed all that much. This year, similar GOP idiocy has apparently manifested itself in Ohio. 

High school test question: How old is the Utica shale formation that Ohio is drilling for oil and natural gas?

Answer: 6,000 years, just like the Bible says.

According to critics, HB 164, the Ohio Student Religious Liberties Act of 2019—which every single Republican in the Ohio House of Representatives and two of its Democrats voted for—would bar teachers from dinging that answer, which is 444 million years off the mark, if the student claims “sincerely held religious beliefs” for making it. And this would apply to all science tests. For example, under this belief, astronomers couldn’t possibly be right about the Andromeda Galaxy being 2.5 million light-years distant from the Milky Way.

One of the critics is Gary Daniels, the chief lobbyist for the ACLU of Ohio. He told the Cleveland Plain Dealer that the bill would protect students’ religious rights, a good thing. But it also would keep teachers from taking off points for answers that conflict with science, stating that they “shall not penalize or reward a student based on the religious content of a student’s work,” he said. And that’s far from what education should be about.

The author of the bill disagrees with the ACLU’s analysis, contending that the measure simply protects “religious self-expression”–although he is apparently unable to point to any examples in which Ohio schools have suppressed or otherwise denigrated “religious self-expression.”

Given the facial absurdity of a bill that would protect a student in the above example–and the amount of misinformation circulating on the web– I consulted Snopes, which  merely lists the issue as “unproven.”

The Washington Post quoted Ohio’s legislative services analysis, and followed up with the ACLU’s interpretation of the bill’s language.

Per the legislative services, the bill would

Allow students to engage in religious expression in the completion of homework, artwork or other assignments;

Prohibit public schools from rewarding or penalizing a student based on the religious content of a student’s homework, artwork or other assignments. (emphasis mine)

Per the ACLU

Gary Daniels, chief lobbyist for the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio, said the measure does in fact allow students to answer homework questions and other assignments incorrectly, based on religious doctrine rather than science — and not be marked wrong. quoted him as saying: “… this legislation clearly states the instructor ‘shall not penalize or reward a student based on the religious content of a student’s work.’ ”

Amber Epling, spokeswoman for Ohio House Democrats, based her analysis on the language of the measure. She also contends that it would allow students to be scientifically incorrect if they incorporated religious belief into a test response.

The bill’s language–which is at the very least open to interpretation–gives rise to an obvious question: If the bill is not an effort to legislatively “overrule” science, and if there are no examples of religious expression having been penalized, what, exactly, was it intended to accomplish?

According to the sponsor, “protecting students’ rights to express their faith encourages hope in the face of violence in schools and rising rates of drug abuse and suicide.”

Shades of “thoughts and prayers.”

And more students would excel in math if legislators would just change pi to make it easier to remember….


  1. After opening legislative sessions with prayers, this the next shot at establishing a religious state.

  2. “High school test question: How old is the Utica shale formation that Ohio is drilling for oil and natural gas?

    Answer: 6,000 years, just like the Bible says.”

    The question and answer above and the unreasonable reasoning below tells us what has been taught as historical geological fact has been limited to the Old Testament beginning of the Bible.

    “Per the legislative services, the bill would

    Allow students to engage in religious expression in the completion of homework, artwork or other assignments; Ohio’s HB 164, the Ohio Student Religious Liberties Act of 2019, includes their public school system, putting it in direct defiance of the 1st Amendment of the Constitution of the United States of America. Indiana is already defying the U.S. Constitution plus the Constitution of the State of Indiana by enacting the highest number of voucher students in the nation. Our state Legislature bypassed that area of both Constitutions by declaring voucher money goes to the parents, not the religious schools. Facts do not change; at least they do not change until Republicans change the laws based in fact to fit their personal views.

    This blog connects with yesterday’s topic, “Meanwhile” – Mike Pence’s version

  3. I used to teach Geology at IUPUI in Indianapolis. One semester, while teaching the basic introductory course, I mentioned other Geology electives when it was time for the students to sign up for the next semester’s courses. I mentioned Environmental Geology, and one of the students asked if that was “the atheists’ course.” Apparently, he had heard that in Historical Geology, the entire history of the Earth, including the evolution of species, was covered. I assured him that he needn’t worry about that in a course on the environment. I don’t know if he signed up for it, but at least it was “safe” for him.

    That was depressing. Coming from the East coast, I was not used to anyone talking about religion outside of a church environment. No one (except the Jehovah’s Witnesses) knocked on your door to invite you to attend church services with them. No one during a break at work took out a bible to read. So I was surprised at that “environment” in the Mid-West.

    And of course, nearly every year, someone in the state Senate introduces a bill allowing Creationism to be taught in the public schools. Fortunately Rep. Bosma never let such bills be considered in the House, because they clearly were unconstitutional, and therefore a waste of the Assembly’s time. I understand that he is retiring. I wonder how his replacement will deal with such bills.

  4. Should this bill become law, I guess that we will not be seeing any Noble Prize winners coming out of Ohio any time soon.

  5. Pascal, you may be interested in this. Back in the late 1970s I worked part time in a small shop in Zionsville. The owner was a member of one of the “barn religions” (aka early evangelicals) and was always talking his religion to me. He mentioned one day that he had studied geology at college. I asked him how he could then insist that the earth was just 6,000 years old. His answer, “God made it look like it was older to test our faith.”

  6. I taught a beginning course in Evolution when I worked at the University of Illinois, and invited a creationist I knew to give a lecture to the class toward the end of the course. Among other “facts” he used to support creationism, he gave the example of the cow’s udder, designed by God to give milk for humans. He was a marvelous orator, and you could hear a pin drop in the room as he spoke. At the end of his lecture, one student approached him and said very emotionally “Oh thank you, thank you, for telling the truth”. She apparently was suffering under the barrage of lies I had been telling.

    I wonder if the question on the age of the Utica shale had asked “How old is the Utica shale, and what is the SCIENTIFIC evidence for your answer”, have elicited a different response?

  7. Theresa and Pascal; a few months ago my newly converted Catholic granddaughter was visiting when the news reported ANOTHER Indianapolis Priest had been accused of child molest. I commented that this has been a problem within the Catholic church for decades. Her response was, “Well, the Pope told them to stop doing that.” Problem solved!

    Then there is whoever it was who questioned dinosaurs not mentioned in the Bible but scientific proof that they had existed and the response that Noah took two small ones on the ark. The religious have an answer for all mysteries in life; past and present.

  8. I’m sitting in my office looking at two dozen books that describe the geological history of life on Earth. In one of them, “Bully for Brontosaurus” by Stephen J. Gould, he commits a chapter to explain how some Bishop Usher in Ireland during the 15th or 16th century was tasked with determining the age of the Earth by using the Bible. He didn’t come up with 6,000 years on the nose.

    Oh, and the Constitution of the United States of America has a thing called the First Amendment. It frees people from religion just as it allows them to practice ANY religion. Since Republicans are loath to confront the mindlessness of evangelicals about this quaint document and the case law that mentions that government disallows any establishment of religion, they avoid such inconveniences. Why? Clearly, because only the mindless vote for Republicans and they have to appeal to their voting base.

    Theresa, when you worked in Zionsville, did you ever meet a very tall gentleman named Dwayne Melton? He owned a farm just outside of town there. He was also the father of one of my finances.

  9. Peggy, they don’t need human-made “laws,” limiting high IQs. 😉

    I still retain my faith in young people with access to Smartphones. Those youngins not allowed to use devices of science will have to join communes across the Midwest and Heartland, basically hiding from the world.

    I also think of our brothers and sisters who’ve been denied progressive tools around the globe for religious and political reasons who suddenly experience the world outside their controlled environments. What an awakening that must be to learn the entire system of beliefs you’ve been taught since childhood is bullshit.

    But, let’s be real, we have the Fourth Industrial Revolution taking place globally while Fascist leaders like Trump & Johnson lead efforts of isolationism and nationalism. We are intentional abandoning the world’s stage because we fear the changes coming.

    Is it any wonder the youth around the world want to abandon our long-standing institutions?

  10. Vernon, sorry, I never met Dwayne. We lived in central Boone which was all farms. Wonderful people, real neighbors, and a great place to raise the kids. Zionsville and Lebanon were for shopping only.

  11. It certainly is mystifying to me how Bronze Age Jews knew anything about the Utica Shale Formation or its age of 6,000 years in their scrolls cum holy writ via a 381 A.D. canonization. They could have just as easily written that God created the formation 450 million years ago, and agreed with science some 2,300 years later. It comes down to scientific means of determining geological formations which can be replicated and a view of the supernatural which cannot and therefore substitutes faith for replication.

    When asked what the most important attribute was in being a successful scientist, suggesting IQ, Albert Einstein answered “No. Imagination.” If that is the standard, then the faithful would make excellent scientists but for Bronze Age prognostications that took root in their imaginations.

  12. Gerald. Well said. Einstein was, of course, correct about IQ. If person “A” correctly solves a problem in 10 minutes, but person “B” takes 20 minutes to solve it, does that make person “B” half as smart as person “A”? Of course not, but that’s how IQ tests work. Dumb.

    Religious people who wrote scripture had wonderful imaginations. Too bad none of their “ideas” involved facts, research or the scientific method. Oh, but we must cling to those falsehoods that explain away that which we fear most: TRUTH about ourselves and our inevitable deaths.

  13. opportunity, where the student doesnt know the answer, gives the religious theory..passes test!can the teacher justify knowing,that student practices religion? or, are they to be mute in knowlege of that students beliefs? knowlege gained…maybe a charter school would just amplify the question..i remember how tense a nun would get when i answered in my humor a question,and got wacked…yep, thats why i dont buy the religious stuff.. if ya didnt follow doctrine,wack…6000 years,,mmm, gotta admit, da man sure had his job cut out for him to hide the fact the world is billions of years old..but,theology prevails in public and private religious foundations,pandered by right wing nay sayers,to make a new stand against any fact,unless,i t supports their needs,and suppressing the minds of those who have a hard time deciding on what to believe..i listen to this crap everyday from those in this sect.the working class is besieged in info wars,and ignorance…take some time and talk to these november maybe the last fight we get..

  14. Religious faith at odds with known fact (sincerely held truth) has accomplishing what some other religious faiths have tried to do for centuries and that is to discount and displace Christianity. The difference this time is that it won’t be displaced by their faith but by faith in science which means faith in the knowledge of evidence rather than faith in Faith.

    We really are at a huge change in human evolution brought about by a literal explosion in human population, the use of Universal energy in place of human muscle and the use of artificial intelligence in place of ours to create wealth, and information at everyone’s finger tips but unsorted in terms of truth and fiction. What culture will adapt to all of this never before realized amplification of human power? Certainly not the one we brought with us from the past.

    One of the adaptations which our rapid evolution will have to start with as current legacy reality is the extreme inequity of wealth and knowledge that we brought with us.

  15. So when a student writes that the Earth rests on the back of the Hindu god Kurma, this will also be acceptable as well, right??????
    Getting closer to seeing The Handmaid’s Tale become a reality!!!!!

  16. Willful ignorance has becoming willing and knowing ignorance (oxymoron). I’m 63 years old and wanted to be dead before we got to this point in our society – people are so afraid of knowledge. One of those commenting above says IU of 110 – I’m thinking closer to 10 but then if that were the case they couldn’t read the bible (purposely smaller case) they swear by so let’s make it 50.

  17. Here’s the rub:
    The officials who approve student applications to universities in 49 of these United States are not bound by the laws of Ohio.

    I give it considerably less than one year. When Ohio parents can’t find a school that will accept their little darlings, the torches and pitchforks will descend on the state legislature and the law will be repealed.

    Something similar happened in Kansas about 30 years ago. Then, it was a school board that made the rule — and the following year, the district had a new board.

  18. Gerald – Bronze Age Jews didn’t come up with that number – they were engaged in explaining some unknowns using common myths and telling a folk history of their ancestors and along with religious rules – Bishop Usher did the calculations and some fundamentalist Christians glommed onto it – the craziest “fundamentalist” Jews that I know don’t take the years seriously – “What’s a year in the eyes of god?”

    So when we speak of religious freedom, they are talking about one branch of one major faith – I doubt they are for equal time for Hindus, Muslims, or Animists — not to mention the non-religious agnostics and atheists

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