(Columbus) - Ohioans would have protections to freely worship and exercise their religious liberties under a bill introduced Wednesday. It could mean that prayer and religious symbols, like a portrait of Jesus, could return to public schools.

State Representatives Tim Derickson (R-Oxford) and Bill Patmon (D-Cleveland) said their legislation, known as the Ohio Religious Freedom Restoration Act, would prevent any laws that substantially burden a person’s free exercise of religion.

“For most Ohioans, faith and worship play a vital role in their lives and provide a sense of hope and community,” said Derickson. “We are privileged as Americans to have a guaranteed right to free speech and free exercise of religion. It is important that religious and political leaders work together to defend religious liberties on behalf of our citizens of all faiths, and implementing a Religious Freedom Restoration Act in Ohio will help to accomplish this goal.”

Patmon said that the United States was founded on Christian prinicples.

“This legislation will help reassert the foundation upon which this country was founded and has grown and prospered on-freedom of religion and the practice of it,” said Rep. Patmon.

The law pretty much mirrors a federal law signed by President Bill Clinton in 1993. It restored the requirement of “strict scrutiny” application in religious freedom cases, which ensured that the government adequately justify burdens on religious exercise imposed by laws neutral toward religion and that if limited religious rights is indeed justified, the court must take the least restrictive means possible to limit those rights.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1997 that the federal law only covered federal statutes and not state law. The ruling encouraged states to implement their own laws and so far 18 other states already have.

The proposed law has received the support of the Ohio Catholic Conference, Agudath Israel of America, the Ohio Council of Churches, the Family Research Council, the Liberty Foundation, Citizens for Community Values, Citizen Link, and the Institute for Principled Policy.

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(Photo by WTAM Staff)

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