Foundation Protests “God” At Ohio Statehouse (June/July 1996)

The Freedom From Religion Foundation has formally protested announced plans by Ohio Gov. George V. Voinovich to place Ohio’s religious motto at the entrance of the newly restored Ohio Statehouse.

Ohio is one of four states with a religious state motto. The motto, apparently adopted in the 1950s, is from Matthew 19:26 reading “With God All Things Are Possible.” The verse is attributed to Jesus in the context of his requirements for salvation.

“State government has no business promoting religious beliefs, much less a New Testament verse referring to salvation through Jesus,” wrote Freethought Today editor Annie Laurie Gaylor.

“It is unfortunate that the state of Ohio adopted Matthew 19:26 as its state motto — in violation of the First Amendment and the spirit of the Ohio Constitution — but two wrongs do not make a right,” Gaylor wrote the governor.

In her letter on behalf of the Foundation’s Ohio membership, Gaylor pointed out that a recent federal court ruling invalidated a similar sign, “The World Needs God,” over an Illinois courthouse.

The watchdog group expressed bewilderment that Voinovich cited as inspiration for his proposal a religious sign he spotted on a government building during a recent trip to India, since India “has been torn in two and filled with bloodshed” in the name of God.

“Rather than imposing a divisive religious message upon the citizenry, we suggest that you take the lead in advocating a new and appropriate motto for Ohio, one in keeping with Art. 1, Sect. 7: ‘No person shall be compelled to attend, erect, or support any place of worship, or maintain any form of worship, against his consent; and no preference shall be given, by law, to any religious society; nor shall any interference with the rights of conscience be permitted.’ “

In the latest development, on June 18 Voinovich vetoed a section of the two-year capital construction appropriations bill that mandated that the motto be engraved on the courthouse. He indicated that protocol dictates the proposal first be approved by the Capitol Square Review and Advisory Board, but that he has not changed his mind.

Thanks to Ohio member Joe Sommer for alerting the Foundation to this proposed violation of state/church separation, and to the many Ohio members who have written letters objecting. See page 5 for a clever poem about the motto by Ohio member Dr. D.A. Rickards, penned when it was first adopted in the 1950s.

The Capital Square Review and Advisory Committee, Ronald T. Keller, Executive Director, can be reached at The State House, Columbus OH 43215-4210. Board Chair is Sen. Richard H. Finan, R-Cincinnati, who promised to take action soon.

Gov. George V. Voinovich can be reached at the Office of the Governor, 77 S. High Street, 30th Floor, Columbus OH 43266.

The Columbus Dispatch ran a praiseful editorial on May 9, 1996 calling Voinovich’s plan to “make room for God at the Statehouse” a “Capital plan,” and invoking every possible apologist viewpoint of America as a historically religious nation. Write (200 words or less, including signature, address and daytime phone) Letters to the Editor, The Dispatch, 34 S. 3rd St., Columbus OH, 43215.

Freedom From Religion Foundation