Vitale pastor bill approved by House


Vitale Passes the Ohio Pastor Protection Act

COLUMBUS — Rep. Nino Vitale, R-Urbana, 85th District, has announced that his bill, House Bill 36, known as the Ohio Pastor Protection Act has passed the Ohio House of Representatives with a 61-29 bi-partisan majority vote.

The bill provides that no ordained minister or church property can be sued if they do not wish to have their property used for ceremonies or activities that are contrary to that faith communities’ deeply held religious beliefs.

“Everyone has seen the many lawsuits that have been going on in various states,” said Vitale. “All those states and those people and businesses all live under the same First Amendment protection. So why are they getting sued? The reason is because of a legal decision known as Smith in 1990. This decision seriously eroded religious freedom in the United States. This is why the US Congress passed a federal Freedom Restoration Act in 1993 and the reason some 20 other states have similar laws such as the Ohio Pastor Protection Act.”

HB 36 was started some three years ago and appeared to have been at a standstill after many committee hearings last spring.

“Lawmakers have had the time needed to study the issue. Rep. Vitale has done the work necessary and has worked very hard to sell the merits of the bill to members,” said House GOP spokesman Brad Miller.

The American Freedom Law Center, The Liberty Counsel, and the Ohio Conference of Catholic Bishops supported and endorsed the bill.The Liberty Counsel stated, if the law were to be challenged in court, they would defend it pro-bono with no expense to the taxpayers.

“In Ohio, the cities of Athens, Bowling Green, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Columbus, Coshocton, Dayton, East Cleveland, Newark, Oxford, and Toledo; the village of Yellow Springs, and Summit County have passed ‘nondiscrimination’ ordinances recognizing ‘sexual orientation’ and “gender identity” as protected classes, said the Liberty Counsel in its letter of support for this bill.

HB 36 will clarify that pastors and churches are exempt from any claims that they must allow their property to be used for activities which would violate their sincerely-held religious beliefs in the area of marriage ceremonies and facilities use.”

“House Bill 36 confirms Ohio’s strong support of religious liberty,” said Rep. Keith Faber, R-Celina, 84th District. “We must assure the right of all Ohioans to freely exercise their own religious beliefs.”

Vitale ended his floor speech by saying, “This bill was crafted in a very specific way to be a shield, not a sword. We live in a pluralistic society with diversity of thought. There is now a conflict that exists with the US Supreme Court giving an opinion that same sex couples have a fundamental right to marry. That has created tension in many faith communities, particularly in the Judeo-Christian culture and with some 5,000 years of their teaching. This bill aims to reduce that tension and have groups ‘propose’ their ideas, not ‘impose’ them through the heavy hand and fines of the courts.”

Vitale also mentioned that the Ohio Constitution, which every member of the General Assembly swore to uphold, states, in Article 1 Section 7, “it shall be the duty of the General Assembly to pass suitable laws, to protect every religious denomination in the peaceable enjoyment of its own mode of public worship.”

“I’m not a pastor, nor church staff but greatly respect the mission they are on,” said Vitale.

The bill now heads to the senate where the Senate President has indicated his support for passage of the bill.

Vitale’s full speech can be viewed by going to https://youtu.be/yeuVmJM9qcs. He can be contacted at his office at rep85@ohiohouse.gov or by calling 614-466-1507.