Urge Toledo City Council To Mark Day Of Reason

May 4th is the National Day of Reason in 2024 and into the future. One of the ways we have wanted to mark the occassion is to have the city council issue a resolution marking the day in the city. We weren’t prepared for how hard it really is to get it done. That’s why we started a petition.

Back in 2019, SHoWLE reached out to the Mayor of Toledo about issuing a proclamation but his office declined and then the pandemic happened and our efforts fell by the wayside.

This year we decided to focus on the city council since they have issued resolutions for a whole host of issues with the most recent being demanding a cease fire in Gaza. So how hard could it be?

There is no written formal process but in talking to a long time community activist, they suggested emailing the council president with the request. We did that and heard nothing back. Not even a thank you for sending this email. After reaching out again, the president responded back that our request had been missed and she declined to sponsor a resolution from us.

A resolution has to be sponsored by a member of council and this being a resolution from a non-religious group to mark a day about reason, there were not many council members to approach who would welcome our request. We identified another council member known for their progressive stances on the issues and advocacy for social justice and reached out to them. Never heard back. Again not even an acknowledgement they got the message.

In consulting our community activist friend again, he mentioned that council is innudated with requests like ours all the time, they have no formal office or staff at city hall, and most times they won’t act on anything unless they know citizens are requesting it and will back their efforts.

That’s where our petition comes into the picture.

We’ve started a petition with the goal to ask the Toledo City council to adopt a Day of Reason resolution. The National Day of Reason is May 4th. so it is most likely too late this year to get a resolution adopted but we will share the petition with the council for next year’s Day of Reason. Won’t you help us out?

*Note* We would really like to limit the signers to people who live in the city of Toledo but if you don’t you can still help us out by making a donation to SHoWLE.

Sign Our Petition Here

Judge Rules Against Catholic Families in Sylvania Bus Dispute

Images of Sylvania school bus

On Tuesday 3/19, Lucas county Judge Stacy Cook ruled that the Sylvania City School District bus transportation plan for students of non-public schools doesn’t violate Ohio law or constitution.

Back in 2022, a couple of families that send their children to a catholic school in Sylvania, filed a lawsuit because their children had to be picked up hours before their school started, transported with older students, then dropped off at a high school to transfer to another bus, to arrive at their catholic school. The parents thought it was unlawful and violated the equal protection and religious freedom clauses of the Ohio constitution.

From the ruling:

“The evidence submitted by plaintiffs consist of several affidavits by the parties and a nonparty spouse. These affidavits recite that they choose Catholic education because of their personal Catholic faith. The affidavits also recite the various inconveniences the Plaintiffs and their children face because of the District’s transportation scheme. However, the Court finds that Plaintiffs have offered no evidence of any coercive effects on their religious practice: there is no evidence that the transportation plan has compelled Plaintiffs to do anything forbidden by their religion or that it has caused them to refrain from doing something required by their religion. Plaintiffs have also not offered any evidence that the transportation plan has compelled them to affirm or disavow a belief forbidden or required by their religion. Accordingly, the Court finds that Plaintiffs have failed to demonstrate any coercive effect upon their religious practice. The Plaintiffs have therefore failed to show that Defendants’ transportation plan violates their right to free exercise of religion under the Ohio Constitution.

The Court finds against Plaintiffs as to their claim that Defendants’ transportation plan violates their right to free exercise of religion under the Ohio Constitution. Again, the presumption that a legislative act is constitutional applies to the Board’s transportation plan. With this presumption the Court finds in favor of Defendants as to Plaintiffs’ free exercise claim.”


Both parties had asked for a summary judgement since the facts in the case weren’t in dispute. In the original lawsuit the families asked the court for an injunction to order the school district to “fix” the transportation plan. Judge Cook said the court couldn’t do that, it could only rule if the district’s act was lawful and not unconstitutional.

The original lawsuit was dismissed by the parents on August 30, 2022. Parents refiled on September 16, 2022 and asked for class action status and removed all references to the 1st amendment to keep it out of Federal court. The class action was never certified.

A lawyer for the families, who was one of the plaintiffs when the lawsuit had been filed in August 2022 but dropped out in September of 2022, stated they were probably going to appeal the ruling.

Additional information on this story is in the Toledo Blade behind a paywall. Images of the article is below.

A Released Time Religious Instruction FAQ is now available

We were contacted recently by someone who lives in the Sylvania Public school district. She said that LifeWise had a presentation scheduled for the next school board meeting and wanted to know if we had any information about the group.

Released Time Religious Instruction is allowed under Ohio Revised Code 3313.6022. The big takeaway is that school districts aren’t required to adopt RTRI policies.

Other points from the law:

(1) The student’s parent or guardian gives written consent.

(2) The sponsoring entity maintains attendance records and makes them available to the school district the student attends.

(3) Transportation to and from the place of instruction, including transportation for students with disabilities, is the complete responsibility of the sponsoring entity, parent, guardian, or student.

(4) The sponsoring entity makes provisions for and assumes liability for the student.

(5) No public funds are expended and no public school personnel are involved in providing the religious instruction.

(6) The student assumes responsibility for any missed schoolwork.

LifeWise Academy is a large religious group based in Columbus that works with local groups to install Bible classes in school districts. In 2022, LifeWise brought in over $6 million in donations, enrolls nearly 30,000 students from more than 300 schools across more than 12 states. LifeWise has a strong presence in Ohio. LifeWise will be in more than 170 Ohio school districts by next school year — more than a quarter of the state’s school districts.

LifeWise only teaches Christianity and only hires Christians to be instructors and staff.

The other issues we have is that children are being removed from school grounds for an hour more by people who don’t work for the school district and who the district doesn’t vet. The classes have absolutely no connection to anything being taught in the public school. It is basically a Sunday school during the week. LifeWise claims it is teaching character values but you can learn those values without religion.

We have created a FAQ page about Released Time Religious Instruction with additional information about the classes and LifeWise.

SHoWLE Disappointed By 303 Creative Court Decision

Toledo, July 1, 2023 – The Secular Humanists of Western Lake Erie are very disappointed in the ruling on June 30 by the US Supreme Court in the 303 Creative LLC v. Elenis case. It is wrong that religious beliefs now trump all other rights to full public business accommodations and allow discrimination of people in a protected class.

The court said that requiring the graphic designer to make wedding websites for same-sex couples was an unconstitutional violation of her first amendment rights because the creation would be seen as an endorsement of something her religious beliefs prohibit.

We don’t believe requiring business owners not to discriminate against customers in protected classes makes the person or business endorse something against their religious beliefs. At the end of the day they can still not approve of same-sex marriages. If a business can’t bring itself to serve customers from the protected classes then they need not be a public business.

We are also concerned about the unprecedented protection the court granted to a religious person. They ruled on a case that didn’t include any actual harm. The plaintiff wasn’t creating wedding websites when she filed the lawsuit and there is some question that the LGBT customer written about in her case was made up. Secular people who claim their religious freedom was violated, like for example challenging 10 Commandment statues on court house lawns, are dismissed because the mere presence of the religious item or text isn’t an actual harm according to federal courts.

The plaintiff agreed in court that she would sell her services to LGBTQ people, just not wedding website designs. So her religious beliefs are not absolute. How does making a sign for a gay man not also seem to endorse his sexual orientation?

The decision was capricious and arbitrary and gave special rights to religious people that are not allowed by anyone else. The Christian Nationalists have been bent on subverting decades of church and state legal decisions.

The US Supreme Court set back religious freedom for many years.

For further information on this decision see: Supreme Court rules website designer can decline to create same-sex wedding websites

About Secular Humanists of Western Lake Erie

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.

We envision a Northwest Ohio and Southeast Michigan where secular people are respected and integrated in broader society, live values of reason and compassion, and enjoy a friendly humanist community.


PDF of Statement Available Here

Ohio Attorney General Wrong To Insert State Into Religious School Lawsuit

The Secular Humanists of Western Lake Erie (SHoWLE) have issued the following statement on the brief filed by Ohio Attorney General David Yost in support of a lawsuit brought by three religious schools against a Lucas county public health order closing all schools in the county to in-person instruction.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: December 29, 2020

Ohio Attorney General Wrong To Insert State Into Religious School Lawsuit

Toledo  – The Secular Humanists of Western Lake Erie (SHoWLE) is extremely disappointed that Ohio Attorney General David Yost has decided to insert himself and the state into a Federal lawsuit by three Lucas County religious schools over the Lucas County Health Board’s order to close all schools in the county to in-person instruction until January 11, 2021 due to the current COVID-19 pandemic.

Like the original lawsuit, Attorney General Yost makes the same argument that was rejected by U.S. District Judge Jeffrey J. Helmick on December 14th, that the religious schools should be treated like non-education secular businesses that were allowed to stay open.

Judge Helmick stated in his decision:

“While, as Plaintiffs note, TLCHD has not ordered gyms, tanning salons, or casinos to close, (Doc. No. 1 at 5-6), these are not the relevant “comparable secular activities.” Instead, the comparable secular activities are educational classes offered by all other schools in Lucas County. These specific environments have substantially similar groupings and movements of individuals. Emmanuel Christian, St. John’s, and Monclova Christian are prohibited from offering in-person instruction to grades 9-12 (or grades 7-12) along with all other Lucas County schools “because the reasons for suspending in-person instruction apply precisely the same to them.””

Judge Helmick also noted that if we were to take the school’s argument to the logical conclusion, the state would not be able to regulate anything involved with a religious group.

“Plaintiffs’ arguments, therefore, would extend to prohibit the government from regulating any aspect of a Christian’s public life because, as Plaintiffs’ mission statements make clear, the purpose of providing “a biblical foundation for . . . students” is to prepare students “to exemplify Christ [and] make Biblically-based decisions” throughout an individual’s life, and not only during the schools years. Thus, a Christian business would be exempt from minimum wage and maximum hour laws,9 while Christians in states where officials have issued Covid-19-related orders closing restaurants for in-person dining could not be prohibited from gathering to share a meal in one of those restaurants.10

More closely to the issue at stake in this case, Plaintiffs’ arguments would mean States could not mandate that students attending parochial schools receive the equivalent number of hours required of public-school students or require that parochial schools provide courses in specific subjects.”

The lawsuit, instead of trying to protect the right of the schools to be treated equally, is trying to force the county to treat religious schools differently than other schools that have complied with the order. They want a court to force the county to give them preferential treatment just because they are religious.

This is the complete opposite meaning of the 1st amendment which is meant to keep religious activities from being singled out by the government for being religious.

“The fact remains, rightly or wrongly, that the Lucas County public health order specifically exempts in-person religious activities,” SHoWLE president Douglas Berger said. “We believe that churches and religious groups, including religious schools, should put the long-term health of their members above the need to gather together for their religious activities since those activities aren’t restricted to happening outside the home. It is for this reason the public health order, that explicitly exempts religious activities of the schools, isn’t an undue burden on them.”

It appears that Attorney General Yost has decided, after claiming he would defend state public health orders, and against the facts of the case, that preferential treatment for religious schools is in the state’s best interests.

We strongly disagree with his decision to insert the state in this case with his brief to the court.


Ohio AG files brief supporting religious schools’ return to in-person instruction

Monclova Christian Academy et al v. Toledo-Lucas County Health Department 12/14/2020

SHoWLE President Douglas Berger discussed this case in Episode 16 of the Glass City Humanist podcast starting at the 08:34 mark.

About Secular Humanists of Western Lake Erie

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.

We envision a Northwest Ohio and Southeast Michigan where secular people are respected and integrated in broader society, live values of reason and compassion, and enjoy a friendly humanist community.

*Update* – On December 31, a three judge panel of the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals granted an injunction to the schools against the public health order pending an appeal hearing.

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

Shawn Meagley – co-Founder