A recent proposal in Ohio State Legislature would allow prayer and religious displays to return to public schools in the state.
The proposal, known as the Ohio Religious Freedom Restoration Act, was created in response to a recent incident in which a portrait of Jesus was removed from the entrance to a Jackson, Ohio, middle school.
Republican Representative Tim Derickson, one of the bill’s co-sponsors, called the proposal a “preventative attempt” to protect religious freedom in schools and public places.
“A court being asked to remove Jesus in a manger would have to prove it is in government’s interest,” added Democratic Representative Bill Patmon.
However, a staff attorney for the Freedom From Religion Foundation called the proposal “dangerous.”
“The proposal creates special exemptions from state laws for those who claim any religious burden,” staff attorney Patrick Elliott told The Dispatch.
“The Ohio Constitution ... already protects from ‘any interference with the rights of conscience,’” Elliott added. “The bill would broadly allow anyone to claim a ‘burden,’ not just substantial burdens and not just for religious conduct but also for any action that is ‘ substantially motivated’ by religious beliefs. The wording is so broad that all aspects of state enforcement, state statutes, and local ordinances would be impacted.”
According to The Dispatch, the bill already has more than three dozen other sponsors.
This proposal is similar to a religious freedom act passed by Bill Clinton in 1993, The Raw Story adds. If the bill passes, Ohio would join 17 other states with similar religious laws in place.
The proposal has seen mixed responses, but members of religious communities are in favor of enforcing religious freedom, especially since many faith-based groups are exempted from requirements of the federal Affordable Care Act.
Charles Tassell, of the Cincinnati-based Citizens for Community Values, also expressed his support of the proposed bill.
“The ability to express your religious beliefs is truly American,” he told The Dispatch.