ACLU of Ohio
opposes legislation that Invites the use of religious exemptions
to ignore the rule of law
January 17, 2014: The ACLU of Ohio has announced its opposition
to HB 376, a bill that claims to protect individual religious
freedom, but instead encourages people to use religion as a
justification for ignoring local ordinances, employment rules,
and criminal law.
“We are a nation governed by laws,” said ACLU of Ohio Executive
Director Christine Link. “This legislation emboldens
people to turn their back on those laws simply by claiming a
“Individual religious freedom is critically important,” Link
added. “That is why the ACLU has fought so hard for so many
years to defend it. But religious freedom is not a free pass to
ignore the law or strip away the safety and civil rights of
Supporters of H.B. 376 have claimed that it is simply another
state version of the federal Religious Freedom Restoration
Act (RFRA) of 1993. However, Ohio’s legislation is the most
extreme in the nation and goes further than any other state RFRA.
If passed, the Ohio RFRA could be invoked to undermine local
LGBT anti-discrimination laws, to force public schools and
universities to modify their academic requirements to suit
individual religious ideologies, or simply to ignore state and
local laws. Other states with RFRA legislation have already seen
individuals and groups using religious freedom as justification
for all sorts of bad behavior, some of it criminal.
“Whether legislators intended for these kinds of negative
consequences or simply failed to anticipate them, they should
abandon this bad legislation,” said Link.