Ohio law exempts church goers from arrest

Caught this strange news on Austin Cline’s blog over at atheism.about.com.

In Ohio, if you are traveling to or from work, you can be arrested. If you’re traveling to or from a union meeting, you can be arrested. Traveling to or from a political rally? They can arrest you. They can arrest you if you’re traveling to or from a meeting of your atheist, humanist, or freethought group as well. Religious believers who are traveling to or from their church, synagogue, mosque, or other place of worship can’t be arrested though. In fact, any police officer who does will be fined!

Going To or From Church? Can’t Be Arrested in Ohio

The Ohio law referenced in Austin’s post is Ohio Revised Code section 2331.11 and 2331.12.

The effective date on section 2331.11 that exempts believers shows as 03-09-1999! 2331.12 that exempts Sunday and 4th of July arrests was enacted in 1953.

A closer look at section 2331 – the parent section of the exemption – covers “Execution Against The Person” which is defined as:

An execution against the person of a judgment debtor shall require the officer to arrest such debtor and commit him to the jail of the county until he pays the judgment, or is discharged according to law… An execution against the person of a debtor may be issued upon any judgment for the payment of money

Execution Against The Person

Basically the “Privilege from arrest” in section 2331.11 applies to arrest for a civil action against a debtor. It isn’t a blanket exemption from any arrest. That made me feel better.

However it is an example of the special privilege believers have written into local, state, and federal laws.

To paraphrase Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black – the 1st Amendment’s “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion…” meant no law and that also meant no tax money and no other support from the government.

Getting special treatment, even from civil arrest for a debt, is against the principle of the 1st Amendment.


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