Co-chair Doug Berger attended the Secular Summit held in Columbus on February 10th. It was hosted by CFI NE Ohio which is headed by our former Legislative chair Monette Richards. It is always an interesting event. Doug also got to talk to his state Senator in person and discussed the Put Kids First campaign along with the other issues the summit was addressing that day.
We highly recommend attending the summit next year if you want to talk directly to your state representatives or learn how to do it.
Speakers at the summit included:
Amanda Knief, National Legal and Public Policy Director for American Atheists, author of The Citizen Lobbyist: A How-to Manual for Making Your Voice Heard in Government talked about the campaign for a Right to Know Act.
It would require health providers to inform patients if they will not provide a medical procedure due to religious beliefs.
Ohio State Senator Michael Skindell, 23rd District, stopped by to talk to us about SB-50, the Secular Celebrant bill he introduced at the beginning of the session last year.
Michael De Dora, from the CFI Office of Public Policy, gave some training on how lobby an elected official. It was also a nice refresher for those who have attended previous summits.
Nancy Starner from Preterm and Stella Shaw from Planned Parenthood updated us on the continuing efforts of the Ohio Legislature to restrict abortion rights. The day of the summit, the Ohio House passed a bill defunding Planned Parenthood making it the 18th anti-abortion law to be signed by Ohio Governor John Kasich since he took office.
We are currently tracking SB 50. If you haven't yet, please contact your state senator and ask them to support this bill.
Another bill we are tracking is HB 286 "Ohio Pastor Protection Act" which wants to keep members of the clergy from being sued if they refuse to perform a same-sex marriage.
HB 286 is not needed to protect pastors as there is a Ministerial Exception under the 1st amendment that would prevent a member of the clergy from being forced to marry someone they didn't want to marry. This has happened when Catholic priests refused to marry couples who previously were divorced or who aren't Catholics. There has not been a rash of lawsuits (or any that we are aware of) forcing ministers to marry people outside of their faith.
The ACLU of Ohio agrees calling the bill "a redundant piece of legislation."
We are also concerned that "religious society" is not defined in the law. We could see this being used beyond just pastors by others to circumvent state or local accommodation laws. If the business is subject to federal accommodation laws then HB 286 would not protect them. "Religious society" is vague and could cause unintended consequences.
Here is a list of the co-sponsors. If your represenative is on the list, feel free to let them know your view on the bill.
Rep. John Becker, Rep. Andrew Brenner, Rep. Thomas E. Brinkman, Jr., Rep. Jim Butler, Rep. Margaret Conditt, Rep. Timothy Derickson, Rep. Timothy E. Ginter, Rep. Bill Hayes, Rep. Michael Henne, Rep. Brian Hill, Rep. Ron Hood, Rep. Steven W. Kraus, Rep. Jeff McClain, Rep. Bill Patmon, Rep. Rick Perales, Rep. Wes Retherford, Rep. Kristina Roegner, Rep. Mark J. Romanchuk, Rep. Margaret Ann Ruhl, Rep. Robert Sprague, Rep. Louis Terhar, Rep. Andy Thompson, Rep. Ron Young, Rep. Paul Zeltwanger, Rep. Tim Schaffer
Photos courtesy of CFI NE Ohio