(COLUMBUS, Ohio) — Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost praises the recently ended 134th General Assembly for its near-unanimous approval of legislation that increases the penalty for disrupting a lawful meeting.
House Bill 504, called the Sacred Spaces Act, came after protesters loudly rushed the pulpit during a pro-life Mass at St. Joseph’s Cathedral. In addition to the fear and alarm caused to parishioners at this service, the Mass was disrupted and was not able to resume until all protesters were removed from the premises by law enforcement.
“The right to assemble and freely worship is protected by both our state and federal constitutions,” Yost said. “The Sacred Spaces Act now provides an enhanced penalty when that right is violated. My particular thanks go to former Rep. Rick Carfagna and Rep. Mark Johnson for their hard work on this important legislation.”
The Sacred Spaces Act also applies to the disruption of virtual services, sometimes known as “Zoom bombings.” During the development of this bill, the Attorney General’s Office became aware of several incidents in Ohio where virtual Jewish services were disrupted by anti-Semitic shouts and imagery.
Former Rep. Carfagna (R-Genoa Township) remarked how places of worship, regardless of the religion or forum, should always remain sanctuaries free from harassment.
“I’m grateful that the legislature acted on this important bill as a final matter of legislative business, and appreciate the tenacious efforts of Attorney General Dave Yost and State Rep. Mark Johnson to get this across the finish line,” Carfagna said.
Rep. Johnson (R-Chillicothe) called HB 504 “a strong step” toward protecting a basic right for Ohioans.
“In the past few years, we’ve realized just how vulnerable our right to practice religion undisturbed is,” he said. “The state must take steps to ensure the First Amendment right to freedom of religion is never infringed upon.”
Yost said he expects Gov. Mike DeWine to sign the legislation into law “very soon.”