COLUMBUS, Ohio – Debate is scheduled to begin soon in the Ohio House on a bill that could bring prayer back to public schools.
Nearly 40 lawmakers from both sides of the aisle are backing the Ohio Religious Freedom Restoration Act, forcing state courts to find a public interest to restrict religious freedom.
The measure was introduced Wednesday by Representatives Tim Derickson (R-Oxford) and Bill Patmon (D-Cleveland), who said it was intended to “prevent any laws that substantially burden a person’s free exercise of religion.”
Supporters say public expressions of faith need to be protected, but critics of the bill say it could open the door to using religion as a legal means to break state laws.
The bill largely resembles federal law which restored the “strict scrutiny” requirement. That mandates that government must justify any burdens placed on the practice of religion, according to a joint release by Derickson and Patmon. The bill also dictates that courts must rule in favor of the least restrictive means possible to limit those rights.
The federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act was signed by President Bill Clinton in 1993, but the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1997 that it did not extend to state laws.