An Ohio bill protecting pastors who refuse to perform weddings that do not conform to their convictions cleared the House Committee.
The bill, known as the “Pastor Protection Act” (H.B. 286), also protects religious organizations that refuse to lend their church buildings to be used for such events.
The bill was approved by the House Community and Family Advancement Committee with a 9-4 vote. It has been referred to a vote on the House Floor.
However, with the Dec. 8 deadline fast approaching, it is not yet known if the legislation will be passed before then. If the bill doesn’t get passed by the deadline, it would have to be reintroduced next year.
The bill says those who refuse to officiate same-sex weddings or don’t allow their buildings to be used for such ceremonies are “immune” from punishment and “neither the state nor a political subdivision of the state shall penalize or withhold any benefit or privilege from the ordained or licensed minister or religious society, including any governmental contract, grant, or license.”
“No ordained or licensed minister … or religious society … is required to solemnize a marriage that does not conform to the ordained or licensed minister’s or religious society’s sincerely held religious beliefs,” the bill says.
“No religious society is required to allow any building or property of the religious society to be used to host a marriage ceremony for a marriage that does not conform to the religious society’s sincerely held religious beliefs,” the bill further says.
Rep. Nino Vitale, R-Urbana first proposed the bill in July. The purpose of H.B. 286 is to allow pastors the freedom to reject participation from activities that go against their conscience, he explained.
In spite of what the bill’s critics say, Vitale maintained the bill had nothing to do with discrimination.
“This is not an issue of discrimination,” he said. “It is an issue of protection; protection for those who have committed their lives to the service of God and their community.”
Various groups gave their support to the “Pastor Protection Act,” including the American Freedom Law Center and Liberty Counsel.
Ohio is not the only state where a legislation that protects ordained ministers and religious organizations is in place.
A legislation in Texas that was cleared in both upper and lower House chambers has been signed by the governor into law. In other states like Alabama, Oklahoma and Tennessee, similar legislations have passed one House chamber, according to LifeSiteNews.