[Editors Note: The following was first published as “CCV Action Responds to Withdrawal of Ohio Religious Freedom Bill” on http://www.ccvaction.org/withdrawal-of-rf-bill/ and was re-published with expressed permission of the author.]
Yesterday, Rep. Tim Derickson (R-Butler Co) and Rep. Bill Patmon (D-Cleveland) withdrew Ohio HB 376, the Ohio Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA). This was on the heels of the media hysteria over the update to the Arizona RFRA, SB 1062, now vetoed by AZ Governor Jan Brewer.
We were quite disappointed that a bill that would have merely reiterated Ohioans’ First Amendment rights–the freedom to practice one’s sincerely held religious beliefs without threat of undue punishment by the state or other citizens–was needlessly withdrawn once “deeply misleading” criticism (as law professors called it) surfaced from same-sex marriage lobby groups.
Ohio HB 376 was modeled on and directly quotes the bipartisan federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) that was signed into law by President Clinton in 1993.
The RFRA restored the requirement of strict scrutiny application in religious freedom cases, the same test used by the Supreme Court prior to 1990.
Was Bill Clinton anti-gay when he signed the bill? How about Ted Kennedy, Diane Feinstein, John Kerry, Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid or any of the other 97 senators and 425 Representatives who almost unanimously voted to pass the federal RFRA to protect basic First Amendment rights of religious freedom of individuals?
Did they pass that bill in hate? (same-sex marriage advocates called RFRA a “Jim Crow Law.”)
They passed that bill to reiterate the American ideal that people of all belief systems, all races, all backgrounds, and all sexual attractions have the freedom to practice their sincerely held religious beliefs unless the government can prove a compelling state interest in curtailing them.
Under the City of Boerne v. Flores (1997), the U.S. Supreme Court instructed states to pass their own RFRA’s. With almost 50 House co-sponsors, Ohio was set to join 17 other states who have passed a RFRA.
Contrary to now-popular falsehoods, no RFRA has ever been used to discriminate. “In fact, since RFRA was passed in 1993 and adopted by many states, not a single person has used RFRA to defend racist business practices or discrimination against gay people in court.”
In Ohio, a diverse group across a broad political spectrum supported the RFRA bill and welcomed an honest discourse about religious freedom.
A few days ago, top law professors from institutions like Harvard, Stanford, Notre Dame, Virginia and six other revered institutions sent a letter to Gov. Brewer so that she would have “accurate information” about RFRA bills. These law professors, some of who were self-identified liberals and supporters of same-sex marriage, felt an urgent need to warn Gov. Brewer that the religious freedom bill was being “egregiously misrepresented” by its critics. 
This is the beauty of America and a free society with a Bill of Rights: we have the freedom to disagree while remaining civil and respectful. As the quote often attributed to Voltaire proclaims, “‘I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” The First Amendment demands tolerance for all beliefs, even those that same-sex marriage proponents dislike.
The Left, as documented by the federal RFRA vote in 1993, used to understand this. “In 1993, the Left cared about individual rights. That’s what made them “liberals.” They didn’t think the government should be able to tell individuals not to do things simply because they didn’t personally agree with their choices.” 
Sadly, now those voices are drowned out by a mob mentality that seeks to impose their views and actions on everyone else, the epitome of intolerance. It’s not enough for them that the Colorado baker, New Mexico photographer, and Washington florist never refused to serve someone based on one’s sexual orientation. No, these same-sex marriage bullies demand that these small business owners participate in weddings ceremonies, actions that go against their beliefs.
So much for tolerating different views and lifestyle choices; so much for live and let live…
In Ohio, talking out of the other side of their mouth, same-sex marriage groups try to tell you that their attempts to repeal Ohio’s constitutional marriage amendment will still preserve religious freedom.
Their actions on RFRA now betray their true intentions.
Yesterday’s withdrawal of Ohio HB 376 marks a sad day for Ohioans who cherish and understand religious liberty and freedom.
Like in Arizona, opponents in [Ohio] were desperate to distort HB 376 rather than debate the merits.
As the Center for Arizona Policy declared, “When the force of government compels one to speak or act contrary to their conscience, the government injures not only the dignity of the afflicted, but the dignity of our society as a whole.” 
The religious beliefs of all Ohioans must be respected, and “this bill did nothing more than affirm that. It is truly a disappointing day in our state and nation when lies and personal attacks can over shadow the truth.” 
However, this is not the end for religious freedom in Ohio, but a beginning.
Pro-family organizations in Ohio, led by Citizens for Community Values, are already redoubling efforts to address these “egregious” lies and attacks on religious freedom. Together, we will continue to promote and protect religious freedom, marriage, family, and children in Ohio. We will stand together to defend liberty and the First Amendment from all who would seek to trample freedom and coerce and compel a free people.
All opinions expressed belong solely to their authors and may not be construed as the opinions of other writers or of OCR staff.
1. “Top Law Professors’ Letter to Gov. Brewer on Religious Freedom”: http://www.ccvaction.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/Letter-to-Gov-Brewer-re-Arizona-RFRA.pdf
2. “Religious Freedom Uproar in Arizona” by Joseph Backholm: http://www.fpiw.org/about/family-policy-blog/religious-freedom-uproar-in-arizona.html
3. Cathi Herrod’s statement on the veto of SB 1062: http://www.azpolicy.org/newsroom/cathi-herrods-statement-on-the-veto-of-sb-1062