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Religious groups, leaders in Ohio are taking different stands on Issue 1

Churches against Issue 1 hold a news conference In Columbus just days ahead of the August 8 election
Jo Ingles
Statehouse News Bureau
Churches against Issue 1 hold a news conference In Columbus just days ahead of the August 8 election

Churches throughout the state are speaking out for and against Issue 1, the proposed change to the constitution that would make it harder to pass constitutional amendments. And that’s allowed by law.

Earlier this week in Columbus, about three dozen leaders of various faiths met in downtown Columbus to make their opposition to Issue 1 known. Rev. Tim Ahrens of First Congregational Church said it's important for all Ohioans to have the opportunity to exercise the 112-year-old right of citizen-led constitutional amendments to keep politicians in check.

"I don't know about you but from a faith perspective and from a human perspective, I say 'no'," Ahrens said.

But leaders of other churches and faith-based organizations are saying "yes."

Evangelical Christian and other churches have been a key focus of the pro-Issue 1 forces, especially in the beginning of summer before the official "vote yes" campaign started airing TV ads. In June, Ohio Right to Life president Mike Gonidakis said he'd spent a lot of time with religious groups: “It’s going quite well in our churches across the state. In all 88 counties we have a presence and operation and we are working hard to win hearts and minds to ensure that in both August we are successful, as well as November." That's when the amendment on reproductive rights and abortion will appear on the ballot.

An ad for a Yes on 1 rally in Cincinnati

On Sunday night, a pro-Issue 1 rally will be held in Cincinnati to pray the rosary. The event will feature prominent anti-abortion activist Abby Johnson, as well as actor Jim Caviezel, known for playing the leading role in "The Passion of the Christ" in 2004 and for the anti-child trafficking film "The Sound of Freedom". He's also been a promoter of the QAnon conspiracy theory. Another featured speaker is Michael Flynn, a retired three star Army general and the first U.S. National Security Adviser under former president Trump till he resigned in 2017. He advised Trump as he tried to overturn the results of the 2020 election and suggested Trump suspend the constitution to hold a new election. Since then, he's been a leading figure in the Christian nationalist movement and has been speaking in churches across the country, and is often also connected to QAnon as well.

Though it's advertised as a "yes on 1" event, Michelle Duffey with the Catholic Conference of Ohio said that organization hasn’t taken a stand on issue 1.

“The bishops of Ohio are neutral on Issue 1. There’s no direct moral content," Duffey said.

Cherie Strachan, the director of the Ray C. Bliss Institute at the University of Akron said churches, which have tax-exempt status, are permitted to take stands in debates like this.

“They are allowed to discuss issues but are not allowed to tie those to a particular candidate," Strachan said.

Strachan said that also goes for the abortion access issue on the statewide ballot this November.

Contact Jo Ingles at
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