COLUMBUS, Ohio — (AP) Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine has signed a bill into law that forbids public officials from closing places of worship in the state.
House Bill 272 follows orders in other states that restricted religious gatherings to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. The Republican DeWine, did not issue such an order in Ohio but did strongly encourage the suspension of in-person services, and most religious organizations in the state followed suit.
The legislation passed entirely along party lines in the Statehouse (with five members not voting), while only two Democrats and two Republicans flipped to either side in the Senate. The governor's office announced the signing of the bill without further comment.
State Sen. Terry Johnson is a southern Ohio Republican who cosponsored the measure. He calls the legislation a necessary preventative move should the issue arise in the future.
The law signed Wednesday also bans state officials from canceling or postponing an election, as happened with Ohio's March primary. The Ohio Department of Health moved that election at the direction of DeWine virtually at the last minute, citing severe health concerns in the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The 2020 general election will take place nationwide on Nov. 3, while most places of worship in Ohio have resumed services with safety protocols in place.