Conservatives Call for A Vote On Controversial “Pastor Protection Act”

May 11, 2016

( l to r) Pastor Tim Throckmorton of Crossroads Churck in Circleville, Chris Long of the Ohio Christian Alliance, and Rep. Nino Vitale (R -Urbana) discuss the "Pastor Protection Act."
Credit KAREN KASLER / OHIO PUBLIC RADIO

The sponsor of a controversial bill that aims to protect clergy who oppose same-sex marriage from lawsuits says it’s being blocked from coming to the House floor, where he’s certain it would pass. Statehouse correspondent Karen Kasler reports he’s asking backers to urge lawmakers to push it forward.

Several conservative clergymembers came to the Statehouse to support the bill, including Jonathan Newman, pastor of Koinos Christian Fellowship, a Southern Baptist congregation in Troy.

“It’s a very simple bill – very clear, very simple, very small. But it would clarify exactly what the rights are of congregations and pastors in Ohio.”

But critics says no pastors have been sued for refusing to perform ceremonies for same-sex couples, so this bill is an unnecessary waste of time. Republican Rep. Nino Vitale of Urbana says his bill has 25 sponsors, including a Democrat, and he thinks his bill has the votes to pass it if it were allowed to come to the House floor.

He told conservative clergy who came to the Statehouse to lobby for the bill.

“Not only do we know we have 50 percent of the committee members that are cosponsors – so those are ‘yes’ votes – but we’ve been whipping the floor vote and feel there’s no question that we have the votes for this on the floor. We would just like to get it to the floor.”

But Speaker Cliff Rosenberger says clergy rights are already protected under federal law, and that he has other concerns about the bill, which has had three committee hearings, but isn’t up for a vote.

“I think it could end up providing avenues to which it would actually make pastors more vulnerable than they are now.”

And Rosenberger says his Republican caucus has only had one conversation about the bill, so it needs more discussion. No Ohio pastors have been sued for refusing to perform same-sex weddings.