New Ohio Law Bans Officials From Shutting Houses Of Worship, Moving Election Dates

Sep 21, 2020

Gov. Mike DeWine last week signed into law a bill that would ban public officials from closing houses of worship or moving the date of an election – though he insists those things have technically never happened in Ohio.

DeWine quietly signed HB 272 without any comment last Wednesday. He's noted several times that, while houses of worship were encouraged to go online at the beginning of the pandemic and masks are required for those who are not celebrants, religious services were neither banned nor shut down.

“I have a great respect for the First Amendment, great respect for freedom of religion," DeWine said at a press conference on Tuesday. "While we have urged churches to have, for people be very, very careful, we never closed them."

The ban on closing houses of worship and moving an election date were added to a bill on court jurisdiction. It was pushed through by Republicans following confusion over the spring primary.

Citing concerns about spreading COVID-19, DeWine issued a public health order closing polls just hours before the March 17 election, and the legislature then extended voting by mail to April 28. However, that proved confusing for many voters, and turnout was low.

All House Democrats voted against this bill – two Senate Democrats voted for it, and two Senate Republicans voted no.