Ohio Prepares to Pass Law to Protect Ministers who Refuse to Perform Same-Sex Weddings

In a move that is being praised by Christians who value religious liberty, Ohio’s state legislature passed the Pastor Protection Act. The bill is meant to protect ministers from performing or endorsing weddings that go against their religious beliefs. This is a common-sense response to the onslaught of lawsuits against religious bakers, florists, photographers and others who have refused wedding-related services to the same-sex community.

The Pastor Protection Act now moves to the state senate and Ohio Senate President Larry Obhof has already noted that the bill should have no trouble passing this state chamber. Once it passes there, Ohio State Governor John Kasich will be asked to immediately sign it into law.

The bill makes it clear that licensed ministers and religious societies cannot be forced to perform or host a marriage ceremony that is contrary to their religious beliefs, neither can they be sued for refusing to be involved in such ceremonies.

Rep. Nino Vitale, the lead sponsor of the bill, has made it clear that the purpose of the proposed law is to address the conflict arising from the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent decision to permit gay marriage throughout the land and the deeply-held beliefs of those in the religious community that marriage is only meant be between a man and a woman. He states that the bill will make sure pastors feel free to exercise their religious rights regarding performance of religious ceremonies.

While this right is already enshrined in the Constitution, the bill is sure to give ministers added security in a culture where frivolous lawsuits are becoming increasingly common.

Even so, the bill is not without controversy. LGBT activists point out that the Pastor Protection Act not only covers ministers but also religious societies that may also seek to disallow same-sex weddings in venues they own and rent out for public use.

The ACLU has also come out against the bill, stating its opinion that venues rented out for public use should permit renters from all walks of life even if the venue is owned by a religious organization that does not want to endorse activities that go against its faith.

The rights of a religious organization to deny service to certain members of the community are already in question in other states; in fact, a Catholic organization in California is already facing a lawsuit from a former business partner that was managing the organizations event venue and was forced to deny LGBT activists the use of the venue based on contract stipulations set down by the Catholic organization.

Indeed, the right of a church or religious charity to deny service based on its First Amendment Rights is one that is sure to wind up at the Supreme Court at some point in the future, even though the court has already ruled in the Hobby Lobby case a few years back that some corporations can be exempt from certain requirements based on the deeply held religious beliefs of the business’ owners.

It would seem the same principle would apply to religious organizations that clearly have deeply held religious beliefs; even so, those who are looking for an excuse to file a lawsuit can still use the lack of clarity surrounding the issue to pursue legal action unless Ohio passes the Pastor Protection Act.

Freedom of religion is perhaps one of the most important freedoms granted to Americans of all ages and walks of life. While there are many who feel that Christian organizations should adapt their beliefs to suit a politically correct atmosphere, the fact is that clergy from all religions should have the right to deny service based on their religious beliefs.

This should not pose a challenge to people who are looking for someone to perform a marriage ceremony and/or a wedding or reception venue as there are plenty of secular companies that are willing to meet the needs of the same-sex community not only in Ohio itself but throughout the United States.

Contrary to popular misconception, allowing religious organizations to opt out of offering some services to certain people in a particular community is not going to hurt people in that community as they have many other options to pick from.

However, forcing pastors and religious organizations to take part in activities that very obviously are contrary to their religious beliefs undermines First Amendment rights not just for religious clergymen and women but also for everyone throughout the country, including those who have opted not to be a member of any religious organization.

~ Christian Patriot Daily