National groups following state legislation involving religion in public schools are paying attention to Arizona's Students' Religious Liberties bill (HB2357-491R). Local news media in Arizona have focused on the section allowing students to wear attire and jewelry with religious themes and bring religious materials to class. But the national attention is focused on the provisions that allow full academic credit for religious answers on assignments.
For example, the American Geological Institute's monthly Government Affairs review carried this description earlier this week:
On May 6, 2009 the Arizona House of Representatives passed a bill designed to protect students from discrimination based on religious beliefs or expressions, in the teaching of earth science and biology classes at public schools. The bill states, “if an assignment requires a student’s viewpoint to be expressed in coursework, artwork or other written or oral assignments, a public education institution shall not penalize or reward a student on the basis of religious content or a religious viewpoint. In such an assignment, a student’s academic work that expresses a religious viewpoint shall be evaluated based on ordinary academic standards of substance and relevance to the course curriculum or requirements of the coursework or assignment.” The bill passed with the influence of the conservative non-profit organization Center for Arizona Policy. The bill has now moved on to the Arizona Senate for consideration.