State Lawmakers Pull “Religious Freedom” Bill

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Ohio Reps. Bill Patmon (left) and Tim DIckerson recently held a press conference to announce the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. They now say they've pulled the bill from consideration.(Photo: Ohio House of Representatives)
Ohio Reps. Bill Patmon (left) and Tim DIckerson recently held a press conference to announce the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. They now say they've pulled the bill from consideration.(Photo: Ohio House of Representatives)

A controversial so called “religious freedom” bill in the Ohio legislature is being pulled.

The legislation, that is similar to the bill vetoed by Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer on Wednesday, has been widely criticized for opening the door to discrimination against LGBT people.

One of the sponsors of the religious freedom bill being considered in the Ohio legislature, Democratic Representative Bill Patmon, says the plan is dead.

“We are pulling the entire bill — not just support or anything, but the bill is being pulled off the legislative agenda by my request,” Patmon said.

“There is too much misunderstanding and misinterpretation in this particular case and when you find that, then you have to maybe go back to the drawing board…”

Patmon says he was pushing the bill because he wanted to make sure there were protections for people who wear a cross necklace, a yarmulke or some other religious symbol in their workplaces.

But critics of this bill said it could open the door to widespread discrimination of gay Ohioans. Patmon says the language in this bill was not clear enough.

“There are different interpretations of it. That’s a concern for me. I don’t want different interpretations whether it is the ACLU or someone else. There should be only one. And that is to make sure people have religious freedom,” Patmon added.

Patmon’s co-sponsor on this legislation, Republican Tim Derickson, is willing to pull the bill. Spencer Gross is Derickson’s legislative aide.

Gross – It was a joint decision to definitely suspend the bill for now,” says Derickson’s legislative aide.

When asked if Derickson used the same reasoning as Patmon, Gross said “Yea, through the legislative process it kind of became clear that there were some unintentional consequences that could result from the bill’s implementation.

“We wanted this to be something that would protect Ohioans of all faiths and their religious liberties,” Gross said, “and it wasn’t our intent to make this a discrimination bill.

The sponsors of the Ohio bill being pulled say they would like to pursue a religious freedom bill in the future….but for now, the legislation is dead. That’s welcome news as far as Ian James is concerned. James, a leader with the gay rights group, FreedomOhio, says the language in the Ohio bill was very close to the language in the Arizona legislation.

James says he thinks sponsors of this bill didn’t realize it could have unintended consequences. And James does not want sponsors to come back with another similar bill in the future. There’s a famous quote by folk singer Bob Dylan that says “money doesn’t talk, it swears.” James says if lawmakers come back with another bill like this in the future, businesses will swear off putting dollars into Ohio’s economy.

James – Companies will come out to strong opposition to this, I’m sure, because they see this is not the way for Ohio to go forward. It’s a bad bill. It’s dangerous.

For his part, Representative Patmon, a member of the Legislative Black Caucus, says he will not support any legislation that would discriminate.

Patmon – Given who I am, there’s no way I could be in favor of discrimination.

  • Old Uncle Bob

    Religious hatred bill. Our Olympians were in Russia while everybody wagged the finger of disapproval at nasty old Putin, then they returned to America for this reeking religious zealotry. Sorry kids, some of the old folks still reject reality, but they’ll be dead and gone soon enough. Gone nowhere, by the way.

  • Marlene Talbott-Green PhD

    I think it is good Patmon doesn’t want to be associated with discrimination, and that Old Uncle Bob recognizes that so-called “religious” people can discriminate against people who don’t believe in anythng. What concerns me, is that in these various kinds of bills for “religious freedom,” they are not usually talking about people of religious persuasions other than Catholic or other very Conservative people. There are huge numbers of people of faith who are being excluded from their own exercise of religious freedom on the basis that they belong to neither of these groups of Christians. There are so many Christians, whose beliefs about sex and gender are not Conservative, who do not exclude LGBT people, who are pro-choice, and support preventative reproductive health care for women, and who are angry to be left out of the conversation. Even to the Supreme Court, there is this pretense that only anti-choice, or people exclusive of other main-stream religious are deserving of religious expression, religious freedom. So, from my perspective, many of these “religious freedom” bills, do not even begin to address religious freedom of the larger body of main-stream religious people who don’t hold these extremists views. How about legislators thinking about all the rest of us, when they start legislating based on a very small numberf of individuals who want to force all the rest of us to honor their religious beliefs and forget about our own?