National group: Ohio among the worst in religious equality

By: - January 7, 2020 12:45 am

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A national civil rights organization that monitors states’ measures regarding religious equality has called Ohio one of the worst in the country. 

Citing anti-abortion legislation and a religious liberties bill, the American Atheists said religious equality is “under attack” in Ohio.

“Ohio lawmakers are more interested in imposing their religious views on citizens than protecting equality for everyone,” said Alison Gill, author of the report and Vice President for Legal and Policy at American Atheists, in a statement. 

The 2019 “State of the Secular States” report puts Ohio alongside Alabama, Arkansas and Kentucky in the category of “worst offender.” 

The report particularly cited the six-week abortion ban, the so-called “Heartbeat Bill” and a bill sponsored by state Rep. Timothy Ginter, R-Salem, that seeks to broaden the ability of students to conduct religious activities in public schools. 

Ginter said in previous statements that his bill echoes constitutional rights already given to students, but that the law is needed to “remove ambiguity for our schools as to what students can and cannot do in regard to religious expression.”

He said the clarity is needed to fight against “groups who are biased against Ohio students’ religious freedoms,” though he did not specify which groups.

Gill said the bill banning abortions after six-weeks gestation “forces one particular religious view of reproductive health on every woman in Ohio.”

The report ranked the state positively with respect the constitutional clause which does not allowing funds to be distributed to certain types of religious educational organizations, but negatively ranked it for the support of abstinence only sex education, school voucher programs, laws allowing promotion of religion by schools and the refusal of abortion services and contraception.

The American Atheists report also gave Ohio low marks for allowing special privileges to religious organizations, such as property tax and other tax exemptions.

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Susan Tebben
Susan Tebben

Susan Tebben is an award-winning journalist with a decade of experience covering Ohio news, including courts and crime, Appalachian social issues, government, education, diversity and culture. She has worked for The Newark Advocate, The Glasgow (KY) Daily Times, The Athens Messenger, and WOUB Public Media. She has also had work featured on National Public Radio.