Sunday, July 16, 2000

Poll finds motto ruling unpopular

Most Ohioans familiar with constitutional dispute support state's use of Bible quotation, survey says

The Associated Press

        CINCINNATI — Just over half the people surveyed in a statewide poll knew that a federal appeals court had ruled that Ohio's state motto, “With God, all things are possible,” was unconstitutional.

        But among those people, 88 percent disagreed with the ruling, according to an Ohio Poll released today.

        The poll was taken before Friday's decision by the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to reconsider its ruling that the motto illegally promotes Christianity over other religions.

        The Ohio Legislature adopted the motto in 1959 as a quotation from Jesus in the New Testament writings of Matthew. In an initial challenge by opponents, U.S. District Court Judge James Graham of Columbus said in 1998 that in a secular setting the words are compatible with Judaic or Muslim beliefs.

        In April, a panel of the appeals court ruled 2-1 that Judge Graham was wrong.

        But on Friday, the court said it will rehear arguments about whether the motto's wording violates the U.S. Constitution as an apparent government endorsement of religion. The 13 judges of the Cincinnati-based appeals court could schedule arguments as soon as December, after both sides file written arguments.

        The American Civil Liberties Union has argued the case against the motto. The state attorney general's office is defending it.

        Among people surveyed by the Ohio Poll, 62 percent said they were aware of the April ruling setting aside the motto. Eleven percent of those people agreed with the ruling, and 88 percent disagreed.

        The poll was sponsored by the University of Cincinnati and was conducted by the university's Institute for Policy Research. It was conducted by telephone June 9-27 among a random sample of 839 adults.

        The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.


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