ACLU vs. The State of Ohio (1997-2001)

An Issue of Separation of Church and State


image of Former Gov George Voinovich poses with Ohio motto in 1998
Former Gov George Voinovich poses with Ohio motto in 1998
Back in 1997, then Ohio Governor George Voinovich had the bright idea to engrave Ohio's state motto With God All Things Are Possible on the newly renovated state house in Columbus. The pseudo government agency responsible for the state house and grounds agreed in general but chose to place the motto in a plaza next to the building rather than on the building itself.

Since the motto is a direct quote from the Bible, the ACLU of Ohio sued in Federal court claiming the state was violating the 1st amendment.

A federal appeals court ruled in 2001 that the motto was generic enough not to violate the 1st amendment as long as the state didn't tell visitors it was a Bible quote. The ACLU decided not to appeal to a higher court.

The motto case was the first church and state case I followed closely. Of course it was because I lived in Columbus at the time but I was also making the journey to secular Humanism. The case was a way for me to support my arrival at a new label for my world view.

The following pages contain the web pages I created by hand to describe the case and the issue surrounding it. I didn't know a lot about making nice looking pages so the finished product looked pretty amateurish.

In 2016 I decided to redo the pages by creating new, more modern HTML pages that are responsive yet look more professional. I also added a column by a Columbus Dispatch columnist, published during the court case in 1998, that I recently found in a box of old papers.

I wanted to bring back these pages because I still believe the state violated the law even if the federal court gave them an easy out to maintain the status quo. The state shouldn't be a cheerleader for any religion even if the religious quotes are inspirational.

The page links are generally in chronically order and contain one or more newspaper accounts. I copied and pasted the text from the web version of the articles but had no idea I needed to link back to the original. I include the title and author of the articles so you can look them up online at the Columbus Dispatch or other newspapers mentioned.

ACLU will not appeal to the Supreme Court (6/7/01) (Final report)

The Nuts and Bolts of the 3/16/01 Motto Decision

Freethought has a setback in Motto Case (3/16/01)

Round 3 Opens in Court Room (12/7/00)

Why is the Ohio Motto Unconstitutional? (4/26/00)

State's Reaction to Motto Ruling (4/26/00)

Victory! Round 2 Court Throws Out Motto (4/25/00)

Ohio's Motto debated in Court: Round 2 (11/5/1999)

Judge rules State can inscribe God motto on west plaza (9/2/98)

Trying to remove religion from obvious religious text is wrong and pointless (1998)

Some background on the Ohio Motto Battle (1997)

Update on the case as of 12/19/1997

An article from the Freedom Forum about the Ohio Motto case from 12/97

Read an Interview on the Religious Side of former Ohio Gov. George V. Voinovich (from 2/98)

Read a short article from the Columbus (OH) Dispatch about a Religious neutrality by Government (from 2/98)


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