If the bill becomes law, Ohio would be the only state other than South Carolina offering school credit for outside religious classes. Democratic and Republican bill sponsors say they want to encourage teenagers to take religious classes.

“It’s an attempt to reinstall some of the same things that made this country great,” said Rep. Bill Patmon, a Democrat from Cleveland who is one of the bill’s two main sponsors.

“We’ve taken prayer out of the schools,” he said. “We’ve separated any religious demonstrations from our learning areas. And we are using our church and state separation in the Constitution to say you can’t have a Christmas (display) or something in front of a school or even a Christ pictorial at Christmas time. We can’t have any of that associated with public buildings.”

House Bill 171 would reward what is called “released time for religious instruction.”