Ohio State State Motto

"With God, all things are possible"

Ohio State Motto

Adopted on October 1, 1959.

Language: English

Focus: Religious

Between the years 1866 and 1868, the State of Ohio had as a motto, Imperium In Imperio, meaning (An empire within an empire.) Since the repeal, in 1868, of the law providing this motto, however, this State has had no motto until October 1, 1959 when "With God, all things are possible" was adopted .

Ohio State State Motto
"With God, all things are possible"

There are four states with mottos that mention "God." Most people would probably regard them as being religious mottos:

  1. Arizona: "Ditat Deus" This means "God Enriches in Latin."
  2. Florida: "In God We Trust." -- identical to the current national motto
  3. Ohio: "With God, All Things Are Possible." This is a direct biblical quotation from the King James Version of Matthew 19:25-26: "When his disciples heard it, they were exceedingly amazed, saying, Who then can be saved? But Jesus beheld them, and said unto them, With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible."
  4. South Dakota: "Under God, The People Rule."

There are three other states with mottos that make reference to "God."

  1. Colorado: "Nothing Without Providence"
  2. Connecticut: "He Who Transplanted Still Sustains"
  3. Maine: "I Direct"

During the 1950's the state organized a contest to select a new motto. A 12-year-old youth from Cincinnati was the winner. When it was adopted by the legislature in 1959, "the Ohio Secretary of State publicly acknowledged in a press release the slogan's Judeo-Christian roots from the book of Matthew."

In 1997, the American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit, challenging the constitutionality of the motto.

In 2000-APR, "A three judge panel of the US 6th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled 2-1 that the 41-year-old slogan violated the separation of church and state, and was a government endorsement of the Christian religion." The motto, "With God, All Things Are Possible," is a direct biblical quotation from Matthew 19:26. Judge Avern Cohn wrote in the majority opinion: "In the context in which the words of the motto are found - as the words of Jesus speaking of salvation - to a reasonable observer, they must be seen as advancing, or at a minimum, showing a particular affinity for Christianity... Simply put, they are an endorsement of the Christian religion by the State of Ohio. No other interpretation in the context of their presence in the New Testament is possible. No amount of semantic legerdemain can hide the fact that the official motto of the State of Ohio repeats word-for-word, Jesus' answer to his disciples' questions about the ability to enter heaven, and thereby achieve salvation..." The state then appealed the ruling to the full court.

On 2001-MAR-16, the full 6th US Court of Appeals reversed the decision of its own three judge panel. In a 9 to 4 decision, they declared the Ohio motto "With God All Things Are Possible" to be not a religious slogan. Thus it does not violate the separation of church and state. They ruled that this motto did not differ from other similar references to God, like the current national motto "In God We Trust." They determined that the motto is a form of "ceremonial deism." It is not sectarian or religious in nature. It resembles certain rituals, such as opening legislatures with an invocation, or an elected official taking their oath of office on a Bible, etc.

  • The majority report was prepared by Judge David A. Nelson. He wrote: "The motto involves no coercion. It does not purport to compel belief or acquiescence. It does not assert a preference for one religious denomination or sect over other."
  • Four dissenting judges stressed that the Ohio motto is a uniquely Christian slogan; it implies the state's "adoption of Christ's words." Judge Gilbert S. Merritt was one of the dissenters. He stated that that the state motto was different from the national motto. "In God We Trust" could refer to "any of the gods of the world's vast pantheon of divinity." However, Ohio's motto is extracted word-for-word from the Bible. He wrote "The state should not align itself with Jesus Christ. Yet that is precisely what Ohio has done, in big bronze letters in the Capitol Square."

COLUMBUS, Ohio (EP) - The US Supreme Court won't be asked to decide the constitutionality of Ohio's official motto, "With God, all things are possible." The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has decided not to appeal a March ruling by the US Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit which upheld the motto.

"We decided that the potential risk was not worth the gain," said Raymond Vasvari, a spokesman for the ACLU's Ohio branch, who explained that by appealing the decision the ACLU would be risking a national precedent-setting case. "It's no secret that there's a conservative block on the Supreme Court that takes a skeptical view of church and state separation."

Ohio Law

The law designating the official Ohio state motto is found in the Ohio Revised Code, General Provisions, Chapter 5, Section 5.06.


§ 5.06. State motto.

"With God, All Things Are Possible" shall be adopted as the official motto of the state. Adopted on October 1, 1959.

HISTORY: 128 v 252. Eff 10-1-59.

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