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Published: Wednesday, 3/21/2001

For God and common sense

The Ohio state motto has been saved from the American Civil Liberties Union's frivolity, thanks to a full federal appeals court ruling.

The motto, “With God All Things Are Possible,” was singled out by the ACLU, which erroneously claimed that the motto was unconstitutional and that it compelled belief and involvement in religious activity.

The 13-member appeals court's 9-4 ruling reversed last spring's 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decision that declared the 42-year-old motto unconstitutional.

The circuit court of appeals' three-judge panel had voted 2-1 to strike down, arguing that because the motto directly quotes Christ's words from the New Testament, it goes beyond mere references to God.

But Judge David A. Nelson turned things around with an opinion that the Ohio motto does not involve coercion, purport to compel belief, or acquiescence.

The state motto embraces a principle held by people who believe in the Christian God as well as those who do not. The principle inspires hope and acknowledges that sometimes a little help from another power is necessary.

The ACLU describes the motto as a watered down version of the “biblical equivalent of `Have a nice day,'” and that “real Christians” should find that offensive. But the motto has served the state well for a lot of years, and the appeals court saw no reason to throw it out.

Now, the motto on the walkway at the Statehouse will remain intact. The decision will also have a positive influence on keeping in place other slogans and mottoes that refer to God. The national motto, “In God We Trust,” which also is the slogan on our currency, is an example.

The ACLU hasn't decided whether it will appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. If it does, it might bear in mind that a court even higher than that might not be on its side.

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