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Burkley: 'Ohio Religious Freedom Restoration Act'
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Tuesday, December 17, 2013 4:52 PM

Guest Column • State Rep. Tony Burkley (R-Payne)

As Americans, some of our most basic, yet most sacred, freedoms are outlined in the First Amendment of the Bill of Rights. Our country was based on the fundamental rights to speak, assemble and worship, and we need to remain diligent on preserving those liberties. That is why I was happy to sign on as a cosponsor to a bill that helps to protect against laws that substantially burden a person’s exercise of religion.

The “Ohio Religious Freedom Restoration Act,” (RFRA) which was recently introduced by members from both parties and is outlined in House Bill 376, strongly resembles a law signed at the federal level in 1993 by President Clinton. The law required courts to use what is called “strict scrutiny” in religious freedom cases, which requires the government to justify any burdens that are imposed on religious exercise. When those burdens are in fact justified, then the court must take the least restrictive route possible when imposing the law.

Basically, the Ohio version takes what previously only applied to federal statutes and applies it to state laws. A 1997 Supreme Court case ruled that Congress could not mandate how state laws should be interpreted, which kept more power with the individual states. However, the court ruling encouraged states to implement their own RFRA laws.

If passed, Ohio would join 18 other states that have already approved the measure.

The diversity of views and opinions – whether they be political, personal, religious or otherwise – is what makes this country so special and is a fact that all Americans should celebrate. I was proud to join several other cosponsors because I think this act puts in place important protections for religious expression.

Rep. Burkley may be reached by calling 614-644-5091, e-mailing Rep82@ohiohouse.gov or writing to State Representative Tony Burkley, 77 South High Street, Columbus, Ohio 43215.