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Local pastors take on the Pastor Protection Act

Posted at 6:10 PM, Dec 04, 2018

A piece of controversial legislation is inching its way closer to the governor's desk.

The Pastor Protection Act would ensure religious leaders and organizations would not be held liable for refusing to perform services, like gay marriages.

News 5 spoke with two men, with different ideologies, united in opposition.

“I think they’re making a thing, out of nothing,” said Pastor John Lentz at Forest Hill Church Presbyterian in Cleveland Heights.

Meanwhile others like Dr. Andrew Clark at Holy Trinity Cultural Arts Center in the Woodland neighborhood say it discriminates.

"It's a camouflage deal that's protecting those individuals that are geared toward hate," Clark said.

The two pastors, from two different denominations, have two different approaches to how they handle requests, like same-sex marriage.

"I would not, because it's against my belief systems," said Clark. But Lentz says he interprets scripture differently.

“We celebrate marriages of all people," he said.

But they share one view about House Bill 36. They both see it as a violation, close to crossing a line between the separation between church and state.

“Pastors have that right to interpret scripture the way they wish. The church is not a business, the church is not a cake shop,” Lentz said. “I feel very uncomfortable about the state trying to legislate the pastor’s role in these very personal matters."

The Pastor Protection Act, which has passed in the Ohio State House, says that a minister or religious organization cannot be held liable for refusing services because of their beliefs, beliefs that even churches can't agree on.

“The larger church is divided on this kind of issue," said Lentz.

Lawmakers say the bill is meant to protect religious freedom and prevent tension and lawsuits regarding same-sex marriage.

“We have enough in the provisions to protect us," said Clark.

For these pastors, they say there's more going on within their immediate communities that need more attention.

“We have some other issues that we're more concerned about like social justice issues, discriminatory practices on all levels," said Dr. Clark.

There have been efforts to pass the Pastor Protection Act in Ohio since 2015, a Senate committee could schedule a vote on it this week.