State cannot include 'God' in motto, U.S. court rules

CINCINNATI (BP)--The Sixth U.S. Court of Appeals ruled April 25 that Ohio's state motto, "With God, all things are possible," violates the U.S. Constitution and must be thrown out.

The federal court sided 2-1 with the American Civil Liberties Union, which pressed the suit, contending the words had no secular purpose and appeared to be a government endorsement of the Christian religion. The lawsuit was originally filed by Matthew Peterson, a Presbyterian minister who objected to the state's use of the motto.

"I read it to mean it's thrown out completely," ACLU attorney Mark Cohn told the Associated Press. "It cannot be used by the state as its motto."

The motto was adopted by the state in 1959 and is taken from Matthew 19:26, a passage of Scripture that quotes Jesus, "... With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible."

The Ohio attorney general was reviewing the decision and had no immediate response, according to the Associated Press. The state could appeal the ruling to the full 13-judge appellate court or ask the Supreme Court to review the case.

The decision by the federal court reverses a 1998 decision by a judge in Columbus that allowed Ohio to display the motto as long as it does not cite its biblical origin.

Days after that ruling, former Gov. George Voinovich, now a U.S. senator, had workers install a bronze plaque bearing the state's seal and the motto in a plaza sidewalk at the state capitol.

According to the Associated Press, Voinovich said he got the idea to place the motto at the statehouse during a trade mission to India where he spotted a public building that bore the phrase, "Government Work is God's Work."

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