Rep. Tim Derickson, a Republican from Oxford and one of the co-sponsors, called the bill introduced yesterday “a preventive attempt” to block further encroachment on expression of religious freedom. He cited examples such as prohibition of prayer in schools and public places, zoning issues for churches, and public expression of religious faith, such as wearing crosses and displaying Nativity scenes.

Asked if the law, had it been in effect, would have affected recent cases where Ohio schools were forced to remove pictures of Jesus, Rep. Bill Patmon, D-Cleveland, said, “You would have a better opportunity of keeping Jesus up.”

“A court being asked to remove Jesus in a manger would have to prove it is in government’s interest,” Patmon said.

Patrick Elliott, a staff attorney for Freedom From Religion Foundation, based in Madison, Wis., called the proposal bad policy and “dangerous.”