Tuesday, December 27, 2022

New Ohio Law Focuses on Zoom-Bombing and Other Disruptions of Religious Services

As reported by JTA, the Ohio legislature in its final session earlier this month gave final passage to H.B. 504 (full text) amending the ban on disturbing a lawful meeting to increase penalties and to focus specifically on disturbing religious services.  The Act now provides in part:

Disturbing a lawful meeting is a misdemeanor of the first degree if either of the following applies:

(1) The violation is committed with the intent to disturb or disquiet any assemblage of people met for religious worship at a tax-exempt place of worship, regardless of whether the conduct is within the place at which the assemblage is held or is on the property on which that place is located and disturbs the order and solemnity of the assemblage.

(2) The violation is committed with the intent to prevent, disrupt, or interfere with a virtual meeting or gathering of people for religious worship, through use of a computer, computer system, telecommunications device, or other electronic device or system, or in any other manner.

Clause (2) of this section is particularly aimed at the practice of Zoom-bombing religious services that are being held online. Zoom-bombing has especially been used during the COVID pandemic to create antisemitic disruptions of online synagogue services.  In Ohio, a first-degree misdemeanor is punishable by up to 6 months in jail and a fine of up to $1000.