“We need this bill passed because we believe in local control” is a consistent argument for Ohio Republicans, but only when it is convenient, of course, because the truth is that Ohio’s Republicans want nothing more than complete control over every corner of the state.

We recently shared State Representative Thomas Hall (R) making such a claim when introducing House Bill 99 – the bill designed to put guns in the hands of teachers:

In my bill, we simply give local control to allow for the local school boards and local governing bodies to decide what amount of training is necessary to allow teachers to carry a firearm in a school safety zone.

State Representative Gayle Manning (R), a token “no” vote on the bill, defended her fellow Republicans when speaking to members of the Ohio Education Association a few weeks ago, saying that she, too, felt like it was a local control issue.  The bill, while appearing to at one point put it in the hands of local communities, actually handcuffs the actual amount of training that the local bodies could require, so to truly say it is “local control” is disingenuous, at best.

More recently, on October 26, to be exact, State Senator Niraj Antani introduced Senate Bill 248, which would:

. . . amend section 3313.601 of the Revised Code to require rather than permit school districts to provide a moment of silence each school day.

That is the language from the title of the bill, meaning this legislation is the exact opposite of local control.

In the legislation, there is a change of one single word – it’s changes “may” to “shall”:

The board of education of each school district may shall provide for a moment of silence each school day for prayer, reflection, or meditation upon a moral, philosophical, or patriotic theme.

Aside from the blatant hypocrisy of the regular “local control” arguments we constantly hear put forth, this bill is clearly unconstitutional and has been proven as such.  Ryan Jayne, Staff Attorney for the Freedom From Religion Foundation provided thorough opposition testimony that covered all the bases, including these three key paragraphs:

S.B. 248 would impose a mandatory, daily moment of silence onto Ohio public school students. Teachers are already free to offer a moment of silence if they determine that it would be beneficial for their students on a given day, and they are the right ones to make that call. Wresting control away from teachers is an improper overreach by the state, in conflict with the long-established tradition of local autonomy in public schools.

Further, this bill is an unconstitutional promotion of religion. More than 35 years ago, the U.S. Supreme Court considered a mandatory public school moment of silence and concluded that it ran afoul of the U.S. Constitution because the law stated that the time was to be used for “meditation or voluntary prayer.” Wallace v. Jaffree, 472 U.S. 38, 41 (1985). As the Court explained, “The addition of ‘or voluntary prayer’ indicates that the State intended to characterize prayer as a favored practice. Such an endorsement is not consistent with the established principle that the government must pursue a course of complete neutrality toward religion.” Id. at 60.

Similar to the Alabama law at issue in Wallace v. Jaffree, Ohio’s moment of silence law states that the moment of silence is “for prayer, reflection, or meditation upon a moral, philosophical, or patriotic theme.” Ohio Rev. Code Ann. § 3313.601. The only
difference is that Ohio’s law suggests prayer first rather than second, making the endorsement even more clear. This runs squarely into Supreme Court precedent.

Regardless of your religious views or beliefs, bills like this have been declared to be clearly unconstitutional for years and introducing such legislation is a waste of taxpayer’s time and money.

Guns for teachers bill? – “Local Control”

Prayer in schools bill? – “State Mandated”

As always, brought to you by Ohio’s Hypocritical Republican Party.

Take action: House Bill 99 and Senate Bill 248 are both in the Ohio Senate right now, so contact your State Senator.