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Bill exempts faith-based groups from restrictions of Ohio Civil Rights Act

Special to the Legal News

Published: March 19, 2013

Reps. Bill Hayes and Terry Blair have introduced a bill into the Ohio General Assembly that would exclude religious corporations, associations, educational institutions and societies from the definition of “employer” as used in the Ohio Civil Rights Law.

House Bill 82 would exempt such religious entities from following guidelines of the civil rights law related to employment.

In a statement, Hayes, R-Granville, and Blair, R-Dayton, noted that the First Amendment guarantees the protection of religious freedom to U.S. citizens.

“The Ohio Civil Rights Act of 1959 prohibits discrimination in employment by ‘an employer because of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, disability, age or ancestry.’ The federal Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits discrimination based on the same criteria as Ohio’s Civil Rights Act but excludes religious organizations from the definition of employer,” the pair wrote.

“Thirty-seven states make this same exclusion.”

Hayes and Blair said Ohio needs to modernize its statute to exclude religious organizations from the definition of employer.

“When considering a business, educational institution, church (or) non-profit that is religious in nature, one would assume and expect such an organization to practice faith-based hiring in order to secure and promote the goals and vision of the organization,” they wrote.

“Under current law, in order to practice faith-based hiring in Ohio, one must acquire a bona fide occupational qualification application from the Ohio Civil Rights Commission.”

A BFOQ application must be approved prior to a religious institution posting an ad for a position in which they will practice faith-based hiring.

“Once a BFOQ has been approved by the Ohio Civil Rights Commission, the employer may proceed with the hiring process,” the two wrote, adding that the outcome of the BFOQ application process is not subject to judicial oversight.

“The BFOQ is a burden for organizations that have expressly religious goals and visions.”

The lawmakers said Ohio should be among the states that exempt religious institutions from the civil rights hiring standards.

“This change is essential to protecting the First Amendment rights guaranteed to religious institutions,” Hayes and Blair wrote.

HB 82 is before the House Judiciary committee.

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