December 4, 2018
Senator Kevin Bacon
Chair, Senate Judiciary Committee
SENT VIA EMAIL
Dear Senator Bacon & Members of the Senate Judiciary Committee:
It has come to our attention that House Bill 36, the Pastor Protection Act, is being considered for a possible vote out of the Senate Judiciary Committee. The Columbus Chamber of Commerce has concerns that House Bill 36 sends an unwelcoming message to businesses and individuals seeking to relocate or stay in Ohio.
The Columbus Chamber was proud to lead the way as the first Chamber to join Ohio Business Competes, a coalition in support of adding statewide non-discrimination protections for LGBTQ individuals, with the goals of making Ohio more economically competitive and inclusive.
The number one challenge we hear from our nearly 1,800 members is “workforce”. In order to attract, recruit, and retain the best and brightest talent, we must ensure that all workers and their families feel safe and welcome here in Ohio. That sentiment should extend beyond the workplace to include housing and places of public accommodation.
Statistics firmly demonstrate that companies and communities benefit from a diverse and inclusive workforce and population. Companies of all sizes are placing increased emphasis on the importance and value of diversity and inclusion, especially as they evolve to attract millennials. H.B. 36 is a step backwards in aiding businesses in their quest to foster diversity and inclusion, and it directly undermines our efforts to advance statewide non-discrimination protections.
Religious freedom is codified in the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and Article I of Ohio’s Constitution. The ministerial exemption from anti-discrimination laws for religious institutions remains intact. A restatement of the law is unnecessary, and may jeopardize the economic development efforts of our state and the Columbus region.
There are proven economic losses in states that have shown intolerance. Indiana experienced $1.5 million in short-term losses alone when it passed a law to allow businesses to deny service on religious grounds; when the Arizona legislature passed a similar law, many large businesses expressed formal opposition, and the National Football League threatened to take the Super Bowl to another state at a potential cost of $500 million; a North Carolina “bathroom bill” was estimated to cost the state at least $3.76 billion over 12 years in lost business.
Laws meant to shield religious liberties are being used as a sword against anti-discrimination protections, a notion that our Columbus region business community has rejected. This legislation sends the wrong message to businesses and workers, and could pave the way for future economic losses. Therefore, we urge the Committee not to bring H.B. 36 for a vote.
Thank you for your consideration, and please do not hesitate to contact me should you have any questions.
Holly F. Gross