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Bill would force Ohio schools to promote God

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Well the religious authoritarians in the Ohio legislature have been busy. Instead of finally coming up with a plan for the equitable funding of Ohio schools – as the Ohio Supreme Court has ruled since 1997 – some members of the Ohio House passed a bill last year that would require Ohio schools to post the US or Ohio mottos in classrooms and cafeterias.

Sounds harmless but both mottos refer to “God”. The US motto is “In God We Trust” and the Ohio motto is “With God All Things Are Possible”. So indirectly, the bill would force God into the schools.

House Bill 184 was passed in June 2005 sits in a committee in the Ohio Senate for consideration. If passed in the Senate then it would become a law.

Here is the text of the bill:

BE IT ENACTED BY THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY OF THE STATE OF OHIO:

Section 1. That section 3314.03 be amended and section 3313.801 of the Revised Code be enacted to read as follows:

Sec. 3313.801. If a reasonably sized copy of the official motto of the United States of America “In God We Trust” or the official motto of Ohio “With God, All Things Are Possible” is donated to any school district, or if money is donated to the district specifically for the purpose of purchasing such material, the board of education of the school district shall accept the donation and display the motto in an appropriate manner in a classroom, auditorium, or cafeteria of a school building in the district.

As Passed by the House

The version introduced in the Ohio Senate contains additional text that was dropped from the version passed by the House:

Sec. 3313.801. (A) Except as provided in division (B) of this section, if a copy of the official motto of the United States of America “In God We Trust” or the official motto of Ohio “With God, All Things Are Possible” is donated to any school district, or if money is donated to the district specifically for the purpose of purchasing such material, the board of education of the school district shall accept the donation and display the motto in an appropriate manner in a classroom, auditorium, or cafeteria of a school building in the district, provided all of the following conditions are satisfied:

(1) The motto is printed on durable, poster-quality paper or displayed in a frame.

(2) The dimensions of the paper or frame are at least eight and one-half inches by eleven inches.

(3) The copy contains no words other than the motto and language identifying the motto as the motto of the United States of America or Ohio.

(4) The copy contains no images other than appropriate representations of the flag of the United States of America or Ohio.

(B) In lieu of complying with division (A) of this section, the board of education of any school district may adopt, by a majority vote of its membership, a resolution describing appropriate design requirements for copies of the official mottoes of the United States of America and Ohio that are different from the design requirements described in divisions (A)(1) to (4) of this section. If a copy of the official motto of the United States of America or Ohio that meets the design requirements described in the board’s resolution is donated to the district, or if money is donated to the district specifically for the purpose of purchasing such material, the board shall accept the donation and display the motto in an appropriate manner in a classroom, auditorium, or cafeteria of a school building in the district.

As Reported by the Senate Education Committee

The committee report is clear. They chose the mottos specifically because each has withstood recent court challenges. The US motto survived a challenge in 1996 and the Ohio motto survived in 2001. The report also makes the point that is pretty obvious to me – that there is concern about the legality of requiring schools to post them. Courts have made distinctions between religious expression involving impressionable children as opposed to adults.

Columbus Dispatch columnist Ann Fisher also has an issue with the proposed law.

Here’s a prediction: State lawmakers who sponsored or co-sponsored the motto bill will note that in their campaign literature for the November election.

Senate President Bill M. Harris has said the bill isn’t among his current priorities. That means House Bill 184 should be sitting pretty when lawmakers return in the fall, before Election Day, when voters will be paying a modicum of attention.

That way, lawmakers can get more bang for our buck.

Motto plan for schools has roots in politics (subscription req)

Fisher also notes that some schools already have mottos.

Moms for Ohio, a political action committee that is behind the current motto campaign, worked in 2004 to get lawmakers to approve a special state license plate with the phrase “One Nation Under God” printed at the bottom.

But that just gives folks another license-plate choice. This bill would foist one or the other motto on schools.

These moms apparently are unaware that many schools have mottos. Although the adages might not be pushing God, they certainly reflect sound values by any rational measure.