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With God, all things are possible

with god all things are possible, with god all things are possible mark 10:27
With God, all things are possible is the motto of the US state of Ohio2 Quoted from the Gospel of Matthew, verse 19:26, it is the only state motto taken directly from the Bible23 It is defined in section 506 of the Ohio Revised Code4 and sometimes appears beneath the Seal of Ohio The motto was adopted in 1959 and survived a federal constitutional challenge in 20012 The state maintains that it is a generic expression of optimism rather than an endorsement of a particular religion2


  • 1 Usage
  • 2 History
    • 21 Early mottos
    • 22 Current motto
    • 23 Controversy
  • 3 Similar mottos
  • 4 See also
  • 5 References


The motto appears beneath the Seal of Ohio on the official letterhead of some state agencies5 A large-scale version is displayed in a plaza near the Ohio Statehouse6 The state motto appears on the flag of Franklin County, beneath the county seal, which is based on the state seal7 School districts in Ohio are required to accept and display any donated copy of the motto that meets certain criteria8

The motto is also one of 46 phrases printed on the "Ohio Pride" license plate design introduced on April 15, 2013 It is located on two lines in the center-left of the baseplate, below "Inventors Hall of Fame" and above "Beautiful Ohio"9

Until 1997, the motto was found most commonly on income tax forms issued by the Ohio Department of Taxation610 The department stopped using the motto in its annual report in 20021112


Early mottosedit

Seal of the Territory of the United States Northwest of the River Ohio

Ohio is considered the successor to the Northwest Territory, whose seal bore the Latin motto Meliorem lapsa locavit, meaning "He has planted one better than the one fallen" This motto, which may have come from the Seal of South Carolina, celebrated the internal improvements that succeeded in pushing back the wilderness13 The seal's first recorded use was on a proclamation on July 26, 178814 Ohio's statehood in 1803 left it without a motto, though Meliorem lapsa locavit remains the motto of Belmont County15

On February 19, 1866, future Superintendent of Public Instruction William D Henkle wrote to Secretary of State William Henry Smith, listing 125 Greek, Latin, and French phrases from which to choose a state motto It was apparently thought that a motto of classical origin would be more dignified than one in English16 On April 6, a Republican General Assembly passed 57 SB 172, adopting an elaborate new state seal and coat of arms The coat of arms bore the motto Imperium in Imperio, Latin for "An Empire Within an Empire" or "Sovereignty Within Sovereignty",1718 number 85 on Henkle's list16 Governor Jacob Dolson Cox used the new seal and motto for the first time in a proclamation on November 519 Though it was intended to extol the state's grandeur, the motto was thought to be too pretentious and ironically recalled states' rights only a year after the Civil War20 The historian Rush R Sloane would later describe it as "a sort of climax of absurdity"2122

An illustration of the 1866 seal, which bears the motto Imperium in Imperio

On May 9, 1868, facing significant cost overruns associated with the new seal, a Democratic Assembly repealed the entire statute21 Representative Jacob Wolf proposed to leave the motto in place, while Representative Francis Bates Pond proposed to replace it with Fiat justicia ruat cœlem, Latin for "Let justice be done even if the sky falls"23 Despite these legislators' efforts, the state was once again left without an official motto3

After 1868, there were hundreds of unsuccessful attempts to designate a new state motto24 On June 29, 1933, the Senate passed a resolution declaring "Gateway to the West" to be the motto, but it did not pass the House of Representatives25 In the early 1950s, the General Assembly sponsored a contest to choose a motto26 In 1953, Representative Anna F Heise O'Neil introduced a bill to designate a state motto in time for Ohio's sesquicentennial, but it was tabled27 A 1957 proposal to place "Home of Light and Flight" on the seal would have celebrated Thomas Edison's birthplace in Milan and the Wright brothers' hometown of Dayton28 The same year, State Senator Lowell Fess sponsored a bill backed by the Ohio American Legion that would have restored Imperium in Imperio29

Current mottoedit

In March 1958, ten-year-old Jimmy Mastronardo of Cincinnati wrote to The Cincinnati Enquirer, pointing out that Ohio was the only one out of 48 states that lacked a motto30 He recommended the phrase, "With God, all things are possible"30 Secretary of State Ted W Brown encouraged him to promote his proposal to legislators and registered him as a lobbyist2 He called his State Senator, William H Deddens, who invited him to testify before the Senate State Government Committee on February 24, 195924 Mastronardo gathered 18,000 signatures in a petition drive,3031 initially collecting them door to door and at a local food festival24 On June 22, the House of Representatives voted unanimously to pass a bill adopting his motto, after he was given the unprecedented privilege of addressing the House from the speaker's podium32 Governor Michael DiSalle signed 103 SB 193 into law in July, effective October 1, 195930 The motto made its first appearance on a state publication the following year, when the Secretary of State's office distributed a pamphlet about state symbols to schoolchildren33

Although the motto is widely understood to come from Jesus' words in an encounter with a rich young man, Mastronardo told reporters that he simply proposed his mother's favorite saying, unaware of its Biblical origin3034 At a statewide meeting of elections officials, Brown presented him with a Citation Award while a surprise guest, comedian Joe E Brown, praised the twelve-year-old for his efforts3536 Mastronardo also received an Ohio flag embroidered with the motto30


The slogan "Government Work Is God's Work" is inscribed in Kannada and English above the entrance to the Vidhana Soudha

In April 1996, Governor George Voinovich returned from a trade mission to India,37 where he had seen the slogan "Government Work Is God's Work" prominently displayed on the Vidhana Soudha, the state capitol in Bangalore38 This display gave him the idea for a similar inscription of Ohio's motto on the Statehouse in Columbus, as part of a $110 million renovation project that was nearing completion39 He went public with the proposal at an observance of the National Day of Prayer in May39 In November, the Capitol Square Review & Advisory Board decided to instead install a seal and motto on a plaza adjoining the Statehouse40

In 1997, just before the bronze fixture was to be installed, the Ohio affiliate of the American Civil Liberties Union ACLU sued the board, Voinovich, Secretary of State Bob Taft, and several other state officials40 The ACLU alleged that the state had violated the Establishment Clause in the First Amendment to the US Constitution and a similar clause in the Ohio Constitution2 The state argued that its motto was not explicitly Christian, likening it to the national motto, "In God We Trust", and the use of "under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance5 It was explained as "a compelling symbol of hope, inspiration and stick-to-it-iveness" The ACLU represented a Cleveland-area Presbyterian associate minister who objected to the state's trivialization of a quote attributed to Jesus2 An ACLU-sponsored poll in the spring of 1997 found that only two percent of Summit County residents were aware of the motto2

On September 1, 1998, US District Judge James L Graham upheld the motto, finding it to be "generically theistic" without endorsing any particular denomination, but he enjoined the state from citing its source40 The state carried out the installation within days On April 25, 2000, a panel of the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the lower court ruling, finding that "the words have no secular purpose and appear to be a government endorsement of the Christian religion"41 However, the Council on American–Islamic Relations disputed this finding, citing verse 2:106 of the Quran,4243 while the World Vaisnava Association objected on the basis of Hindu scriptures44

By this time, there was significant public support for the motto A June 2000 Ohio Poll conducted by the University of Cincinnati found that 62% of Ohioans were aware of the April ruling; of them, 11% agreed with it while 88% disagreed45 The US House of Representatives weighed in, voting 333–27 with 66 voting "present" to pass a non-binding resolution, sponsored by Representatives Mike Oxley and Tony P Hall of Ohio, that expressed support for Ohio's motto and others that refer to God The entire Ohio delegation except for Representative Stephanie Tubbs Jones voted in favor4647 By December, Attorney General Betty Montgomery's office had received 15,000 letters of support regarding the ACLU case, more than on any other issue during her term4849

On March 16, 2001, after an en banc review, the full Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed Judge Graham's ruling 9–4, leaving the motto in place In a dissenting opinion, Judge Gilbert S Merritt, Jr, expressed skepticism that the state fully intended to separate religious meaning from these words He noted that Ohio officials had frequently explained the motto to their constituents in religious terms: Secretaries of State from Brown to Taft had cited Matthew 19:26 in pamphlets, and in 2000, Montgomery wrote to constituents that "the destruction of our state motto is part of a carefully constructed plan to strip America of every last symbol of our faith"2 On June 7, 2001, the ACLU declined to appeal the case further, fearing the repercussions of an adverse ruling by a conservative US Supreme Court5

Similar mottosedit

As noted in ACLU v Capitol Square Review and Advisory Board, the federal government also invokes God in both its official motto, "In God We Trust", and in the Pledge of Allegiance Three federal circuit courts have affirmed the national motto see Aronow v United States, O'Hair v Murray, and Gaylor v United States2

Besides Ohio, several other states refer to God on their seals without quoting the Bible South Dakota's seal bears the motto "Under God the people rule" Colorado's includes Nil sine numine, Latin for "Nothing without providence" or "Nothing without the Deity" Arizona's includes Ditat Deus, meaning "God enriches"6 The mottos of all three were chosen before statehood by territorial governors Florida's seal bears the national motto Although Kentucky's official motto is "United we stand, divided we fall", in 2002 the legislature also adopted Deo gratiam habeamus "Let us be grateful to God" as the state's Latin motto50

See alsoedit

  • Capitol Square Review & Advisory Board v Pinette, another case involving the ACLU and the Statehouse plaza


  1. ^ "Winter - West Seal" Capitol Square Review and Advisory Board Retrieved January 26, 2015 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio and The Rev Matthew Peterson v Capitol Square Review & Advisory Board, 243 F3d 289 6th Cir 2001
  3. ^ a b Fritsch, Jane April 30, 2000 "Holy Cow! Ohio Has A Motto Problem" The New York Times The New York Times Company Retrieved November 4, 2008 
  4. ^ Ohio Rev Code §506
  5. ^ a b c Sidoti, Liz June 8, 2001 "Debate over Ohio's Bible-quoted motto won't go to high court" Spartanburg Herald-Journal Spartanburg, South Carolina Associated Press p A4 – via Google News 
  6. ^ a b c Steinfels, Peter July 29, 2000 "Trusting in God is one thing, but saying all things are possible with God is quite another Or is it" The New York Times The New York Times Company Retrieved January 20, 2015 
  7. ^ "Franklin County Flag" Capitol Square Review and Advisory Board Retrieved January 26, 2015 
  8. ^ Ohio Rev Code §3313801
  9. ^ "New Ohio Pride License Plate" Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles Retrieved January 20, 2015 
  10. ^ 1997 Ohio Individual Income Tax IT-1040EZ Forms and Instructions PDF Ohio Department of Taxation 1997 p 1 Retrieved February 1, 2015 
  11. ^ "Letter from the Tax Commissioner" PDF 2001 Annual Report PDF Ohio Department of Taxation October 26, 2001 Retrieved February 1, 2015 
  12. ^ "Letter from the Tax Commissioner" PDF 2002 Annual Report PDF Ohio Department of Taxation June 27, 2003 Retrieved February 6, 2015 
  13. ^ Reinke, Edgar C Winter 1985 "Meliorem Lapsa Locavit: An Intriguing Puzzle Solved" Ohio History Columbus, Ohio: Ohio History Connection 94: 74 
  14. ^ Bennett, Pamela J; January, Alan January 21, 2005 "Indiana's State Seal—An Overview" Indiana Historical Bureau Retrieved May 31, 2008 
  15. ^ "Belmont County Flag" Capitol Square Review and Advisory Board Retrieved January 26, 2015 
  16. ^ a b Lindley, Harlow April 1944 "A State Motto" The Ohio State Archæological and Historical Quarterly Ohio State Archæological and Historical Society 53 2: 160–165 
  17. ^ McDonald, Forrest November 2002 States' Rights and the Union: Imperium in Imperio, 1776–1876 Lawrence, Kansas: University Press of Kansas ISBN 978-0-7006-1227-7 
  18. ^ "March 28, 1866" Journal of the Senate of the State of Ohio for the Regular Session of the Fifty-Seventh General Assembly 62: 391 1866 – via Google Books 
  19. ^ Cox, Jacob Dolson November 5, 1866 "Proclamation by Jacob D Cox, Governor of the State of Ohio" Retrieved February 1, 2015 – via Ohio Memory 
  20. ^ Knabenshue, Samuel S April 1902 "The Great Seal of Ohio" The Ohio Archæological and Historical Publications Ohio State Archæological and Historical Society 10 4: 489–490 
  21. ^ a b Randall, Emilius Oviatt January 1902 "Great Seal of Ohio" The Ohio Archæological and Historical Publications Ohio State Archæological and Historical Society 10 3: 392–393 
  22. ^ Sloane, Rush R 1903 "The Organization and Admission of Ohio into the Union and the Great Seal of the State" Ohio Centennial Anniversary Celebration at Chillicothe, May 20–21, 1903, under the auspices of the Ohio State Archælogical and Historical Society: complete proceedings Ohio Centennial Anniversary Celebration Chillicothe, Ohio: Ohio State Archæological and Historical Society pp 90–119 LCCN 04018527 OCLC 855752 – via Internet Archive 
  23. ^ "Ohio Legislature Official Report" The Ohio State Journal Columbus, Ohio March 26, 1868 p 3 – via Ohio Memory 
  24. ^ a b c "11-Year-Old Testifies In Senate On Adopting Motto" Reflector-Herald 172 46 Norwalk, Ohio United Press International February 24, 1959 p 1 – via NewspaperArchivecom 
  25. ^ "Ohio May Have Another Motto" Quarterly Bulletin 8 Historical Society of Northwestern Ohio June 29, 1933 
  26. ^ "State Motto" Profile Ohio Ohio Secretary of State 2011 Retrieved January 20, 2015 
  27. ^ Bulletin Ohio General Assembly 1953 p 252 
  28. ^ "357 New Bills Introduced To Establish Day's Record" The Zanesville Signal March 7, 1957 p 23 – via Newspaperscom 
  29. ^ "Legislature's Hopper Holds Grist For Official Ohio Motto" The Blade 122 Toledo, Ohio Associated Press February 6, 1957 p 3 – via Google News 
  30. ^ a b c d e f Radel, Cliff September 4, 1998 "A mom to match our state motto" The Cincinnati Enquirer Gannett Company Retrieved January 20, 2015 
  31. ^ "Boy Sponsors Motto" The War Cry The Salvation Army September 12, 1959 p 16 Retrieved January 26, 2015 – via Internet Archive 
  32. ^ "Motto For Ohio Nears Adoption" The Blade Toledo, Ohio Associated Press June 23, 1959 – via Google News 
  33. ^ "New Motto Put On State Seal" Sandusky Register Sandusky, Ohio United Press International February 26, 1960 p 8 – via Newspaperscom 
  34. ^ "Scooter Bill Gets Final Test Today" The Lima News 75 168 Lima, Ohio United Press International June 17, 1959 p 4 – via NewspaperArchivecom 
  35. ^ "Authors State Motto" The Sun 48 4 North Canton, Ohio October 7, 1970 p 6 – via Ohio Memory 
  36. ^ "Ohio's Official Motto 11 Years Old Today" Coshocton Tribune 62 19 Coshocton, Ohio October 1, 1970 p 6B – via NewspaperArchivecom 
  37. ^ "Group to sell Ohio in trade trip to India" News The Cincinnati Post E W Scripps Company Associated Press April 3, 1996 Retrieved January 21, 2015 – via HighBeam Research 
  38. ^ Harper, Jennifer October 12, 1998 "All Things Are Possible – except, of Course, Jesus" Insight on the News Washington, DC: News World Communications Retrieved January 26, 2015 – via HighBeam Research 
  39. ^ a b "Public, private citizens wield day of prayer for political gain" The Blade Toledo, Ohio Associated Press May 3, 1996 p 16 – via Google News 
  40. ^ a b c American Civil Liberties Union v Capitol Square Review, 20 F Supp 2d 1176 SD Ohio 1998
  41. ^ Nolan, John April 26, 2000 "Ohio motto, 'With God, all things are possible,' ruled a no-no" Allegheny Times Beaver, Pennsylvania: Beaver Newspapers Associated Press p A1 – via Google News 
  42. ^ "Muslims want Christian quote kept as Ohio motto" Delray Beach News 45 139 Delray Beach, Florida Associated Press May 5, 2000 p 10A – via Google News 
  43. ^ Tarjanyi, Judy April 28, 2000 "Islam leaders join dissent of judgment" The Blade Toledo, Ohio p 6 Retrieved February 15, 2015 – via Google News 
  44. ^ "Hindus call Ohio ruling 'absurd'" The Blade Toledo, Ohio May 27, 2000 p B5 – via Google News 
  45. ^ "Poll finds motto ruling unpopular" The Cincinnati Enquirer Gannett Company Associated Press July 16, 2000 Retrieved January 22, 2015 
  46. ^ Straub, Bill June 28, 2000 "House votes in support of Ohio's state motto" The Cincinnati Post E W Scripps Company Retrieved January 20, 2015 – via HighBeam Research 
  47. ^ 106 HR 494
  48. ^ Montgomery, Betty July 14, 2004 "Pledge, motto get support" Letter to the editor Northwest Columbus News 29 19 Columbus, Ohio: Suburban News Publications p 7A Retrieved February 6, 2015 – via Google News 
  49. ^ "Federal judges mull Christmas as a holiday and Ohio's God motto" The Daily Record 99 297 Ellensburg, Washington Associated Press December 16, 2000 p B3 Retrieved February 15, 2015 – via Google News 
  50. ^ Kentucky Revised Statutes section 2105

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