Voinovich Just Doesn't Get It


As part of my continuing observation of the ACLU lawsuit against the State of Ohio that seeks to prohibit the inscription of the state motto "With God All Things Are Possible" on the Statehouse grounds because it is a violation of the 1st Amendment, I'd like to share an article that appeared in the February 13, 1998 issue of the Columbus Dispatch newspaper. Where the article appeared, in the Faith and Values section is telling as are the thoughts from the former Governor.

After reading the article I found myself more than aware of the dangers of mixing religion and government. to the extreme as Voinovich has and continues to show to the people of Ohio. He just doesn't get it. -- dlb


Voinovich's Personal Faith His Personal Guide

February 13, 1998

by Lee Leonard
Dispatch Statehouse Reporter

When Gov. George V. Voinovich faces a major decision in running the state, he doesn't check his faith at the door. He invites it in and even consults it.

In fact, Voinovich's faith is such an integral part of him, he finds it impossible to ignore when doing his job.

"I do not think that one can separate who they are or what they do from their basic religious faith," Voinovich said. "I think that's the essence of who people are."

The governor decided early that he wanted a career in public service, and he's turned it into an opportunity to act out his faith.

"One of my favorite hymns is God's Blessing Sends Us Forth, about the fact that Christ be known to all mankind. . . that 'faith and action I may show,'" Voinovich said.

He points to James' letter in the Bible as a lesson that faith without action is no faith at all.

"The fact is that this is what drives you along," Voinovich said. "That's what's great about this job. Sometimes you get paid for it, but what a fantastic opportunity to give witness to the Second Commandment ('Love your neighbor as yourself')."

Voinovich has taken heat for injecting his faith into his public positions. Some people believe that in a pluralistic society with a democratic government, religion must take a back seat.

"We are in a multicultural society," Voinovich said. "But I think we're in a multicultural society that has a relationship with a god. There's a spirituality to who we are. We need all the prayers we can get from whatever that's out there. I just think that it's fundamental to who we are and what we are and why we've had the success that we've had as a nation."

In August, Voinovich was taken to court when he directed that the state motto, "With God, All Things Are Possible," be inscribed on the Statehouse. Opponents, including the American Civil Liberties Union, protested on grounds that the motto was taken from the New Testament and therefore is Christian.

Voinovich is puzzled by the opposition.

"If you go back to the foundations of America, they're based on the Judeo-Christian tradition," he said. "Some of our greatest leaders have said without the Ten Commandments, without morality, without the recognition of almighty God. . . Go Back to the Magna Carta. . .

"It's based on inalienable rights from God. They came from God, they didn't come from the king or some politician. This whole country is based on that kind of foundation."

State Sen. Rhine McLin, D-Dayton,, said the line separating religion from government is becoming more blurred. She looks at it from the viewpoint of whether government should get into private matters.

"We tell state workers the people don't want their tax dollars to fund insurance coverage for abortions, but Ohio ranks among the top states in the nation in public funding of private (including religious) schools," McLin said.

"We want to exercise control over parenting, which use to be a sacred area, but if we want to introduce 'values' the (Republican-controlled) legislature says, 'No, we can't do that. We can't have sex education.'"

The Voinovich administration, McLin said, uses the argument of separating church and state selectively, when it's in the interest of the administration.

"The governor's against (casino) gambling but we have bingo and the lottery," she said.

The governor's Roman Catholic Church is against the death penalty, but Voinovich has said he would permit an execution if the case reached his desk and the circumstances warranted.

Voinovich is opposed to abortion and recently signed a pair of bills tightening restrictions on abortion. McLin and other abortion-rights advocates believe the government has no business getting into that area.

"There are areas where the government shouldn't tell us what to do -- very personal decisions that are traumatic," said Sen. Judy B. Sheerer, D-Shaker Heights. "I don't tell anybody to have an abortion, and I wouldn't tell anyone not to. Just because I'm a public official, I shouldn't use the cloak of government to promote my personal views on those matters."

Voinovich forced is mantra of "working harder and smarter and doing more with less" on welfare recipients. Even though he wept as he axed cash grants for general relief, his hard nosed oversight of the taxpayers' dollars won out.

But Voinovich also made the conservatives' blood boil when he endorsed preference in government contracts for the less fortunate and when he opposed attempts to require that English be the official language for government business.

So the government, despite the fact that he's a Republican and a strong friend of the business community, believes he is called to stand up for the oppressed and minorities.

He prays each day and attends Mass several times a week.

"Every single day I offer up what I do, for my sins and I ask God to give me the ability to carry whatever burdens I'm asked to carry," Voinovich said. "A lot of this stuff that we do is tough. It's redemptive. You've got to understand that. And also that God opens your eyes to the opportunities that you have to make a difference."

Voinovich's faith helped him most in dealing with the Lucasville prison riot of 1993, in which one guard and nine inmates died.

"I really prayed for divine guidance and the intervention of the Holy Spirit in terms of my decision-making because that was a very, very crucial period," the governor recalled. "There were a lot of people pushing me to do a lot of things.

"At the end of that thing I acknowledged. . . it was the Holy Spirit working. The Holy Spirit does work. I believe that. I pray to the Holy Spirit. It's like being in the valley, way down in the valley, and needing help, and asking for inspiration to do the right thing. Let go, let God. That keeps me going."

© 1998 The Columbus Dispatch. This article appeared on pages 1E and 2E of the Feb. 13th 1998 edition of The Columbus Dispatch.


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