Religious Freedom Restoration Act: Protecting religious freedoms or instituting discrimination?

Cathy Brinkman runs a small printing business in Evendale.

As an entrepreneur the last thing she wants to do is refuse business.

But recently when a customer wanted some racy photos of himself and his girlfriend printed, Brinkman declined.

That decision had her concerned that she might get sued because of freedom of self expression.

So she welcomed Ohio House Bill 376 that would help protect business owners who choose to deny their services to someone because it violates their religious beliefs.

“I should be able to run my business the way I see fit,” Smith said. “We don’t have an obligation to serve everyone.”

The bill is called the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

Charles Tassell has been making the trip to Columbus to lobby for passage of the bill, saying recent court cases so weakened First Amendment rights for people with religious views that the additional protection for small business owners is needed.

“We should not need it, but the way things are going we do,” Tassell said.

Additionally, supporters of the bill site a myriad of legal cases challenging their freedoms – everything from same-sex marriage to abortion to pornography.

Tassell cited legal actions against venues that do not want to host same sex receptions as a specific example.

“They shouldn't be trying to restrict somebody’s religious freedoms,” he said.

But critics say it's just another attempt to discriminate.

Attorney Josh Langdon, whose office handles gay rights issues, said measures like this are a desperate attempt to stop the momentum of gay rights.

“I question the motives of people who bring this,” he said.

Tassell says he expects the bill to be up for a vote in a couple of months.

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