Ohio mandates displaying donated mottos in schools

By The Associated Press

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Despite constitutional concerns, Gov. Bob Taft signed a bill yesterday requiring all public and community schools to display any donated copies of the national and state mottos — "In God We Trust" and "With God, All Things Are Possible."

Both mottos have withstood court challenges suggesting that their use in official government contexts violates the clause on separation of church and state in the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

However, a legislative analysis of the bill questioned whether displaying the mottos in schools would be equally successful in court.

"It is not known, however, whether courts would uphold the required display of the mottoes in public schools where they would be seen regularly by young children," the Legislative Service Commission reported in its analysis for lawmakers. "In the past, the Supreme Court of the United States has distinguished between religious expression involving impressionable children as opposed to adults."

After a failed attempt in 2004, the Ohio House again passed the bill last June and sent it to the Senate. Senate President Bill Harris initially declared it as low on his priority list, but he put it up for a vote that succeeded in May.

Taft's signature came the same day the bill arrived on his desk.

The bill, sponsored by Rep. Keith Faber, a Celina Republican, requires public schools, including charter schools run by private entities using state money, to display copies of the mottos if they are donated in a classroom, auditorium or cafeteria. An earlier version of the bill required display in every classroom in the state.

Moms for Ohio, a small political-action committee that mostly promotes conservative causes, pushed the bill as instilling the right values in children.