COLUMBUS, OH—The American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio filed a legal brief with the Ohio Supreme Court in its first challenge to the much-maligned Ohio Patriot Act. The lawsuit, which specifically disputes a requirement forcing lawyers who act as public defenders to sign a statement certifying they are not terrorists promises to be only the first of litigation challenging the many dangerous sections of the Act.
Already, the ACLU of Ohio has begun investigations into reports of other agencies such as small businesses and non-profit organizations that have been forced to sign the pledge as a condition of receiving state funds.
“Requiring lawyers, social workers, business leaders and others to sign pledges that they are not terrorists and do not employ terrorists will do nothing to prevent a terrorist attack in Ohio,” said ACLU of Ohio Legal Director Jeffrey Gamso. “Instead, it will only encourage a climate of fear and suspicion across the state.”
Earlier this month, reports surfaced in the Cleveland Plain-Dealer that many Ohio officials were concerned that the terror pledges were adding several layers of bureaucracy to the state’s daily business. Officials reported that many companies were forced to sign terror pledges multiple times, some organizations did not wish to sign the pledges, the law was vague and did not easily define what organizations were supposed to sign and there was little guidance as to what the state was supposed to do with completed pledges.
Terrorism pledges are not the only aspect of the Ohio Patriot Act that has drawn ire from social justice advocates. Throughout the year-long debate in the Ohio General Assembly, groups such as Ohio Citizen Action and the League of Women Voters raised concerns over sections of the act that would increase government secrecy, open the door for racial profiling and allow police officers to stop and request information from those in bus stations, airports and train stations.
“The Ohio Patriot Act is an assault on several fronts of the basic rights all Americans cherish,” Gamso continued. “The ACLU is committed to defending basic rights such as privacy, a fair and impartial justice system and other bedrock liberties. Most provisions of the Ohio Patriot Act are little more than legislative window dressing, which aggravate citizens in their daily lives and do nothing to stop terrorism.”