Much ado about bluffing: Pastor Protection Act supporters stretching the truth

Equality Ohio works with welcoming and affirming communities of faith all across the state. If you are a faith leader and are against discrimination, consider joining the Ohio Faith Coalition. If you are looking for a welcoming and affirming faith community, check out our Find Your Faith tool.

 

LifeSiteNews is an extremist Christian “news” site. It’s known for classic headlines such as “BEWARE: Lego Batman movie promotes gay adoption” and “The birth control pill is killing women but no one’s warning them of the risk.”

LifeSiteNews clutching pearls that our position is: if you're running a business, civil rights laws apply to you.
LifeSiteNews clutching their pearls after learning that our position is: if you’re running a business, civil rights laws apply to you.

 

For a recent article, LifeSiteNews cherry-picked quotes from an NPR interview with Equality Ohio executive director Alana Jochum.

 

From the article “LGBT activist admits they want to force Ohio churches to host gay ‘weddings’”

Rep. Vitale explained to LifeSiteNews, “Basically, I’ve been trying to get them to admit that they are going after church facilities.”

 

During the NPR interview, Vitale asked if churches should be legally forced to rent to someone who wants to use their facilities for something that’s against their church’s belief system.

 

“Yes,” Jochum answered. That facility “should be open to everyone.”

 

The article continues, characterizing our argument as a sinister attempt of queering-up every church in America.

One of the lawsuits Rep. Vitale uses as an example for why the Pastor Protection Act is needed.
One of the lawsuits Rep. Vitale uses as an example for why the Pastor Protection Act is needed.

 

An intellectually honest review of our position reveals that we have grounds for serious concern.

 

Let’s get into it. This is from testimony Alana Jochum delivered about the Pastor Protection Act.

 

Where this bill enters dangerous territory is the wide latitude it gives to “religious societies,” which is not defined.

 

Religious entities play many roles in our state. Catholic Charities and Salvation Army, for example, provide a host of social services, crisis intervention, temporary housing, after school programs, and even food assistance. Many receive state and federal funding to do so, and are obligated to serve everybody equally in these programs.

 

Religious entities, therefore, are not always simply “houses of worship;” they also include entities that engage in commerce––by operating conference centers, reception halls, engaging in equipment rental, and much more.

 

Why are we concerned? Well, in his own testimony, Rep. Vitale cited two instances of LGBTQ people bringing suits that he feels are unacceptable (none, by the way, are about forcing a pastor to marry someone they don’t want to).

 

Here they are.

 

The first lawsuit is about a same-sex couple suing a lakeside conference center because they were denied service. That center––which features beachfront views, tennis courts, and shuffleboard––has never denied service previously except in cases of scheduling conflict. To be clear, it was owned by a religious society. But the facility itself is not a church. It is functionally a business, and that business engaged in discrimination.

 

The second lawsuit Vitale cites as why the Pastor Protection Act is needed is a transgender man who is suing a hospital because they denied him medically necessary care. Why? He’s transgender and it’s a Catholic hospital. The hospital, by the way, has a “patient bill of rights” that includes a statement guaranteeing service regardless of gender identity.

 

A transgender man being denied care at a hospital? A local business refusing the serve a same-sex couple? This is why we see red flags all over the bill.

 

Oh, and don’t forget: despite being all about protecting pastors, nobody has a single example of a pastor being sued because they refused to marry somebody.

 

Here’s the hard truth. Yes, this is about same-sex couples, but LGBTQ people aren’t even protected under current laws, so this discrimination is already legal. But what about those people who ARE protected under Ohio’s laws?

 

A lack of clear definitions (religious society could mean anything) could open the door for discrimination based on categories like race, national origin, disability, and many other protected classes.

 

Sure, LGBTQ folks aren’t included in Ohio’s civil rights laws. But we’d still like for them to exist for when we are. The Pastor Protection Act is not “just” pointless––it could be dangerous.

 

Call your legislator and tell them to vote NO on the Pastor Protection Act.

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