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It's been a while since I lived full-time in the state of Ohio, so sometimes I miss things that would normally be of interest to me. I was reminded of one such thing this morning listening to NPR on the way to work. Listen to broadcast. (If that doesn't work visit this page and click on the 8:06 news link.)

WCBE/WKSU was giving the morning news report and they included an update on a law passed here last year. The law, passed in 2006 under a Republican legislature and Republican governor Bob Taft (who was convicted of a criminal offense while in office), requires public schools in Ohio to post in classrooms, auditoria or cafeterias, any privately donated poster containing the state or national motto.

Now, one might wonder why I should care about this, but the problem, of course, is the mottos themselves. The national motto, once this amazing and inclusive E pluribus unum (Out of many, one) was replaced in the 1950s with "In God We Trust". The state motto of Ohio was likewise changed in the 1950s, and replaced with a verse straight out of the Bible (Matthew 19:26) which reads "With God, All Things Are Possible".

See, there's that damn "god" thing again. Don't they get it?

Of course, the theists in the legislature seem to think that since these mottos have both withstood federal court challenges in the last decade (Ohio's was struck down by a lower court and then upheld in 2001, while the national motto was struck down, and then left in limbo on a technicality in 2004) that they are "safe" to promote to the captive audience of school children.

According to the news report this morning, one private company, funded in part by churches, has sent out 18,000 posters, which now reach approximately 400,000 students, or about 1-in-5 of all Ohio schoolchildren. Defenders of the law insist that the law is not an endorsement of religion.

Not an endorsement of religion? Oh, really. What's that bit about "god" then? At most, you can say they are not endorsing a specific religion, but that they are endorsing and establishing religion over irreligion. And what about the fact that the Ohio motto came directly from the Bible? How can one not intepret this as an endorsement specifically of Christianity?

And what do supporters of this law say about it??

It provides teachers with “an opportunity to discuss why we have a national motto” and to discuss questions like “What is a motto, and what does this particular motto mean, and how did it come about?"

How did it come about? Oh really? Does that sound like an admission that he wants to talk about Jesus and his Bible???? Or could he be referring to the 1950s anti-atheist, anti-communist hysteria?? Neither of these options sound particularly palatable to me.

It can be noted that the ACLU does plan to eventually file suit against this law, but according to NPR, they are awaiting additional complaints to come into their office. So, if you are an atheist with children in a public school that has one of these posters, I urge you to contact the ACLU about your concerns.

ACLU article on court ruling striking down Ohio's motto, from 2000.
Family Policy Network on new state law.
Secular Left page with text of law.

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