COLUMBUS— Today, State Reps. Brigid Kelly (D-Cincinnati) and Casey Weinstein (D-Hudson), demanded House Bill (HB) 327, the ‘Both Sides’ bill, be barred from any further consideration by the Ohio House after the Republican bill sponsor said in a recent interview that educators should teach “German soldiers’” perspective of the Holocaust. The bill sponsor then proceeded to make several inaccurate and anti-Semitic claims about the Holocaust during the interview.
“Claiming there are two neutral and legitimate sides to the Holocaust is nothing short of denial,” said Rep. Weinstein, a Jewish member of the Ohio House. “Trying to wipe out and ignore our history while imposing big government on school districts to limit First Amendment rights in an unconstitutionally broad and vague way is chilling and reminiscent of the ‘thought police.’”
The ‘Both Sides’ bill would make “failing to fairly present both sides of a political or ideological belief or position” conduct unbecoming of an Ohio educator, which prompted widespread alarm from teachers and concerned parents. Educators and potentially-impacted organizations across the state have asked how teachers would be expected to confront difficult subjects. How do you teach both sides of the Holocaust? Of 9/11? Of slavery? Of Ukraine?
“These comments are absolutely reprehensible, and reveal HB 327’s true intent: to force our educators to teach ‘both sides’ of topics like the Holocaust, slavery or 9/11 that unequivocally have only a right side and a wrong side. This is exactly why we must trust well informed educators, not partisan politicians, to determine what is taught in our classrooms so our children are best prepared for the future,” said Rep. Kelly.
As they’ve worked through four public versions and at least 12 unofficial drafts of the legislation, Republican lawmakers have been forced to grapple with what a requirement to teach both sides of topics like Communism, Christian values, and even American traditions like standing for the National Anthem might look like in the classroom. Putting restrictions on what people can and can’t say, as it turns out, is a difficult task.
That said, the impossible choice the bill would present to teachers – false equivocacy or firing, is one of the most straightforward provisions in the far-reaching and ambiguous censorship bill.
The bill is intentionally broad, making it nearly impossible for schools, universities, police stations, libraries, and local governments to predict when they cross the line into legal liability. Even business-minded organizations have expressed concerns behind closed doors about the legal uncertainty it would impose.
States like Texas and Florida set in motion an alarming national trend by state legislatures to pass extreme bills censoring what is taught in classrooms. Nevertheless, several classroom censorship bills have been rejected recently in traditionally red states.
The Anti-Defamation League of Ohio condemned the Republican sponsor’s Holocaust comments, prompting the member to issue a statement painting the ADL and other justifiably concerned organizations as “left-wing special interests.”
House Republican leadership has refused to say if they will remove HB 327 from the Ohio House agenda, where it has already received five hearings in the State and Local Government Committee.