From Ohio History Central
Exterior view of the Ohio Penitentiary at the intersection of Spring and Maple Streets in Columbus, Ohio, ca. 1870-1879. Construction of the Penitentiary began in 1832 and it served as Ohio's maximum security prison until 1972.
The Gehan Bill was an early effort by the Ohio government to overcome nativist sentiment by many of the state's residents.
During the early 1870s, Democrats in the Ohio legislature succeeded in passing the Geghan Bill. This legislation guaranteed residents of Ohio's prisons and asylums "ample and equal facilities" to practice their religious beliefs. This bill was designed to provide prisoners and patients who belonged to the Catholic Church the opportunity to worship according to the dictates of their faith in these institutions.
The Geghan Bill became one of the major issues of the Ohio governor's race of 1875. In this election, the Democratic Party selected William Allen, while the Republican Party nominated Rutherford Birchard Hayes. Many Ohioans disliked the Democratic Party for its support of Catholics. Many Ohioans feared that Catholics were more loyal to the Pope than to the United States of America. Since the early nineteenth century, Catholic Ohioans, especially ones of Irish ancestry, had faced discrimination because of their Catholic religious beliefs from Protestant Ohioans. The Geghan Bill confirmed the Democrats' pro-Catholic views to many Ohioans. The Republicans won the election in a close vote. Hayes and the state legislature repealed the Geghan Bill.