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All Religious-Based Answers Are Acceptable?

by Rabbi Rami ShapiroNovember 25, 2019
Columnists
a concept of a flat earth in space

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“If the students in Ohio schools want to replace math with myth, and fact with fiction, who am I to judge?”

Jesus said, “When you know the truth, the truth will set you free” (John 8:32). Clearly Jesus never lived in Ohio. The Ohio House of Representatives has just passed The Student Religious Liberties Act, a bill that forbids teachers from penalizing students who give wrong answers to questions as long as those answers are upheld by the student’s religious beliefs. Specifics were not given but one can easily imagine school test questions such as the following:

1) What role to Jews play in the world?

a) Christ Killers

b) Spawn of Satan 

c) Betrayers of God 

d) All of the above

2) What, if any, are examples of legitimate uses of capital punishment?

a) Murder

b) Homosexuality

c) Picking up sticks on a Saturday

d) All of the above

3) When was the earth created? 

a) 4.54 billion years ago

b) 5,780 years ago

c) 6,000 years ago 

d) Oct. 23, 4004 BCE

Actually, I have no problem with this bill as long as it is applied uniformly. For example,

1) Who is the One True God?

a) Christ

b) Krishna

c) Flying Spaghetti Monster

d) All of the above

If all religious based answers are acceptable, then I’m fine with the new law. Of course, if a student were to write in, “There is no God” that would be a wrong answer since atheism is not a religion but a rejection of religion. This prejudice against atheists doesn’t bother me because by the time this bill becomes law every atheist will have moved out the state.

The rationale behind The Student Religious Liberties Act seems to be that religious kids are snowflakes who cannot take having their beliefs questioned. Fair enough. More and more Americans are snowflakes on an ever-growing number of issues, so what’s one more?

Of course, if religious answers are as valid as scientific answers students in Ohio will have a hard time going to out-of-state graduate schools. When asked to name the primary cause of Hurricane Katrina, the Ohio student who answers “sin” is being true to her faith but will still make a lousy climate scientist. And I wouldn’t want to learn earth science from an Indian professor who got her doctorate from the University of Ohio affirming the earth rests on the back of Akupara, a giant turtle.

Or am I being too narrow-minded? In our age of fake news and alternative facts who is to say the earth doesn’t rest on the back of a huge tortoise? You know what? Not me. Now that I think of it, if the students in Ohio schools want to replace math with myth, and fact with fiction, who am I to judge? No, let Ohio be Ohio. I’m just proud to have been educated in Massachusetts. At least there we only burn witches.

Check out more of Rabbi Rami’s thought-provoking and often hilarious writings, here.


Rabbi Rami Shipiro

Rabbi Rami Shapiro is an award-winning author, essayist, poet, and teacher. His spiritual advice column, “Roadside Assistance for the Spiritual Traveler,” addresses reader questions pertaining to religion, spirituality, faith, family, God, social issues, and more. His latest book is Surrendered—The Sacred Art: Shattering the Illusion of Control and Falling into Grace with Twelve-Step Spirituality.

He has this to say about religion: “To me, religions are like languages: no language is true or false; all languages are of human origin; each language reflects and shapes the mindset of the civilization that speaks it; there are things you can say in one language that you cannot say or cannot say as well in another; and the more languages you know, the more nuanced your understanding of life. Judaism is my mother tongue, yet in matters of the spirit I strive to be multi-lingual. In the end, however, the deepest language of the soul is silence.”

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