State Rep. Nino Vitale, R-Urbana, of Ohio’s 85th House District.

Paranoid conservative backlash to the U.S. Supreme Court’s affirmation of equal marriage rights continues in most entertaining fashion, with state Rep. Nino Vitale joining the fun this week with a proposed Ohio Pastor Protection Act.

In his first go at being primary sponsor for any bill, the freshman Republican from Urbana asked colleagues if they’d be interested in co-sponsoring the act in an email Tuesday.

At least his constituents now know the type of issue that blows his skirt up: redundantly re-legislating the First Amendment of the Bill of Rights.

“I will soon be introducing legislation that will protect Ohio pastors, clergy, and ministers and the property associated with the religious organization,” Vitale wrote, ignoring the fact that such protection already exists and has never been seriously threatened except in the fevered imaginations of conservatives like Vitale.

“This protection will allow these individuals to exercise religious liberty and only perform ceremonies if they are in line with their deeply held religious beliefs.” Which, of course, is already the case.

The muse of tautological statutory law visited Vitale after the Texas legislature passed its own Pastor Protection Act Tuesday. And the representative of Ohio’s 85th House District was also duly impressed by similar proposals in Tennessee, Oklahoma, and Alabama.

Oh how it’s been the dearest wish of my heart that the Ohio state legislature would more often imitate the priorities of Alabama.

“Ohio’s pastors and church organizations should not be forced to violate their conscience,” Vitale wrote, and never you mind the fact that we aren’t. “I believe it is time for us to protect these servants of God in the State of Ohio.”

Being a licensed minister myself, registered with the Ohio Secretary of State to solemnize marriage, I certainly appreciate Vitale’s kind gesture. And I must say what a fine and nice thing it is now, thanks to the U.S. Supreme Court, not only to be able to consecrate marriages in my home state, but also to be able to get married myself.

Entertained as I might be by Rep. Vitale’s proposal to reinvent the wheel, as it were, it’s always been my belief that Mssrs. Madison and Jefferson already did a damn fine job on religious freedom back in the 18th Century.

David DeWitt is a writer and man of sport and leisure based out of Athens, Ohio. He has also written for Government Executive online, the National Journal’s Hotline, and The New York Observer’s Politicker.com. He can be found on Twitter @TheRevDeWitt.

  • Tiffany Mckinney

    Kudo’s to you representatives for being smart enough to be pro active in reaffirming our freedom to act on our religious convictions.. and the author of this article must be naïve or must have just crawled out from under a rock.. Gays are suing people all of the time for invoking their religious rights to choose not to participate or cater their weddings.. this is still America the last I heard.. jump in bed with whomever you choose but we have a right to celebrate our own lifestyle with morals and values!

  • anastasjoy

    Um, you must still be UNDER the rock, Tiffany. No church or pastor is forced to marry anyone. Many churches only marry members of their own faith; they can do that and force others to go to the Unitarian Church. Catholic churches refuse to marry divorced people unless they get an annulment. They can do that. Equating secular businesses with churches s silly and anyway, this misguided legislation doesn’t deal with businesses. It’s pointless and redundant. Pull your head back under the rock.

  • Mark

    Once again, Republican lawmakers are trying to create a problem (to win votes?) where none exists. Pastors are already not required to marry people, gay or straight. Many church officials, for example, turn away couples who are not church members, or who are not “ready” for marriage, or who profess beliefs different from those held by the denomination, or who are being married for a second time, or who…

    By considering this bill, the State is wasting time and money, and is appearing to support discrimination.

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