Pastor Protection Act Not Needed And Wrong For Ohio

Testimony given to Ohio Senate committee

TOLEDO, November 28, 2018 – Secular Humanists of Western Lake Erie (SHoWLE) submitted written testimony opposing Ohio House Bill 36, also known as the “Pastor Protection Act”. The bill would repeat 1st amendment protection given to faith practitioners but would also allow religious groups to avoid public accommodation laws even if a property is used for commercial purposes.

This is a very dangerous change in our civil rights,” SHoWLE President Douglas Berger stated in written testimony submitted to the Ohio Senate Judiciary Committee today. “This bill would allow religious groups to discriminate against ANYONE that they feel doesn’t conform to their religious beliefs. Do we want to see a church food pantry turning away a needy family because they are Mormon, since this particular church doesn’t believe Mormons are Christians?

Churches and property owned by religious groups aren’t normally required to follow state or federal public accommodation laws when used explicitly for religious purposes. House Bill 36 doesn’t make such a distinction. The bill as written also wouldn’t just affect same-sex couples. A pastor performing weddings at the court house for a fee could decide not to solemnize a marriage because the couple in question are members of the military or a church fellowship hall might require renters to only allow straight people to attend the event.

Religious freedom should be a shield to protect people from persecution and not a sword to give special rights to a favored group that ends up persecuting people not in that favored group, ” Berger wrote.

This bill is a waste of time and taxpayer money for a problem that doesn’t and will never exist. Instead we would like to see the legislature work to make performing marriages more accessible by considering and passing Senate Bill 52 that also amends 3101.08 to allow anyone who registers with the state to solemnize a marriage.

A pastor or priest will never be forced to perform a ceremony that doesn’t conform to their deeply held religious beliefs but HB 36 is being used to discriminate against those who don’t conform to the favored religion – namely LGBTQ people but the vagueness of the law will allow all kinds of discrimination – with the force of the state.

The Ohio Senate Judiciary Committee is meeting this week and the hearing for opponents of the bill is Thursday with a possible committee vote following.

It’s saying something when the majority party is rushing to protect pastors and priests from something that will never happen while they continue to ignore helping the victims of clergy abuse,” Berger said.

While SHoWLE doesn’t believe a pastor or priest should be forced to do something that violates the 1st amendment, religious groups shouldn’t be allowed to arbitrarily discriminate in the use of property it owns not being used for strictly religious purposes.

Link to the  full written testimony

About SHoWLE

The mission of the Secular Humanists of Western Lake Erie is to provide a supportive local community for humanists and other nontheists, while promoting an ethical, reasonable, and secular approach to life through education, community service, outreach, activism, and social events.

SHoWLE meets on the 2nd Saturday of each month and all general meetings are free and open to the public. The website is humanistswle.org

Media Contacts

Douglas Berger – President
567-302-0209

Shawn Meagley – co-Founder
419-266-7945

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SHoWLE Will Not Take St. Anthony Land Bank Pledge

screenshot of Toledo officials and Rep. Marcy Kaptur at a press conference demanding the Diocese of Toledo save St. Anthony church

*For Immediate Release*

Toledo, Ohio, June 22, 2018 – The Lucas County Land Bank, a county agency, voted to accept the donation of St. Anthony Church from the Diocese of Toledo contingent on an engineering inspection and a call for written pledges to help in redeveloping the building. At this time the Secular Humanists of Western Lake Erie (SHoWLE) has decided NOT to make a pledge.

“Although the church and state issues we were concerned about seem to be abated. We are still troubled with the city and county taking on this project without any concrete plans,” said SHoWLE President Doug Berger.

We do feel that the Padua Center and the neighborhood should not only have a seat at the table but should be taking the lead in any plans for the building. We didn’t feel it was appropriate telling them how to reuse the building.

Berger added that SHoWLE will be monitoring the issue and should it look like outsiders are minimizing or ignoring neighborhood input then it is prepared to support the neighborhood.

Whatever is done with the building has to benefit the whole neighborhood and not just the outsiders who ‘saved’ it,” Berger said.

Media Contacts

Douglas Berger – President
567-302-0209

Shawn Meagley – co-founder
419-266-7945

 

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Humanists Ask Toledo Officials Not To Insert Themselves In Saving St. Anthony

screenshot of Toledo officials and Rep. Marcy Kaptur at a press conference demanding the Diocese of Toledo save St. Anthony church

The Secular Humanists of Western Lake Erie (SHoWLE) urge Toledo city officials and US Rep. Marcy Kaptur not to insert themselves in the effort to save St. Anthony Catholic Church on Nebraska Avenue.

Seeing Rep. Kaptur and current and past Toledo elected officials standing at a podium with the city of Toledo seal, demanding the Diocese of Toledo not tear down St. Anthony is troubling,” Doug Berger, President of SHoWLE said.

The separation of church and state not only protects the government from religious intrusion but also protects religion from some intrusion by the government.

“It sets a bad precedent, especially as organized religion continues to lose members,” Berger said. “The City of Toledo can’t save all the old churches in the city and when it chooses not to then that is going to be a no win situation.”

The Diocese of Toledo, in a statement, wondered where the calls to save the building were for the past 13 years after it closed and as the building continued to deteriorate.

“The government officials demanding the building not be torn down will stick the Diocese with the repair bills should they prevail. The only way for tax dollars to be spent on a renovation and/or reuse would require the property be sold to a non-religious entity at a fair market price,” Berger said.

The misleading statement by a community member that demolition would be a health and safety issue is also a problem.

“If the building were kept, it would still need any asbestos and lead paint removed and it would have to meet modern building standards. I don’t think the Diocese hired a fly by night demolition company who wouldn’t take the required precautions in tearing down such an old building.”

The building is historical and significant to many people in the community but there hasn’t been any specific plans from the people wanting to keep it.

SHoWLE believes that Rep. Kaptur and the city of Toledo shouldn’t pick sides in the issue and they should stay neutral as called for in the 1st amendment.

Related story:

Kaptur, Kapszukiewicz call on diocese to halt St. Anthony demolition