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Bipartisan push to balance religion, free speech on Ohio campuses

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(The Center Square) – A group of bipartisan lawmakers wants to balance religious freedom and free speech on college campuses throughout Ohio with a new law.

The proposed plan, developed with help from the legislature’s Jewish caucus, would increase security and offer grants to promote interfaith and community-building initiatives on campus.

“Our students need us to do more to address the rise in racial, religious and ethnically charged acts of harassment, intimidation, and fear on campus,” Rep. Dontavius Jarrells, D-Columbus, said. “We must be clear: Hate of any form is unacceptable. We hope this bill will spark needed conversations and spur action to help students and universities come together.”

The bill, which has yet to receive a number and a committee assignment, would provide money for emergency security efforts and grants.

Jarrells and Rep. Justin Pizzulli, R-Scioto County, said they hope the proposal will provide structures, transparency and incentives for universities to build safer and more inclusive campus cultures.

“I want to thank Rep. Pizzulli, my colleagues in the Jewish Caucus and the student voices we’ve been listening to on this matter for joining me in these efforts,” Jarrells said. “Their support, perspectives, and leadership have been key to developing a bill that I’m optimistic can bring forth positive change.”

Reps. Casey Weinstein, D-Hudson, Dani Isaacsohn, D-Cincinnati, and Beryl Brown Piccolantonio, D-Gahanna, of the Jewish Caucus, welcomed the legislation in the wake of recent increases in antisemitism and prejudice.

“We owe it to our students to do two things at once: Protect the freedoms enshrined in the First Amendment while also making sure that all students live and learn in an environment free from harassment, discrimination and hate,” the three said in a release. “We have seen unacceptable levels of antisemitism and other forms of ethnic or religious prejudice. This bill is about transparency and accountability on our campuses and empowering students to foster trust and build bridges across differences. That is how we move forward as a community, and we are grateful for the bipartisan, community-driven effort to get us there.”

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