- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 16, 2000

Readers defend the use of Ohio's state motto

On the initiative of a 12-year-old Cincinnati schoolboy, the State of Ohio has adopted as its excellent motto, "With God All Things Are Possible." What adoption could be more pleasant and appropriate, particularly as the motto is actually a declaration by Jesus Christ?

But Ohio has been sued by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), on its usual grounds, that the adoption of this motto "establishes a religion," contrary to the First Amendment, such adoption thus being unconstitutional. Once again, it seems, a federal appeals court has been found to rule in favor of the ACLU.

Bruce Fein contends in his column that the ACLU argument is valid, that the motto should therefore be removed, and that such removal would constitute "religious neutrality" ("Boosting Christianity," Commentary, May 9).

Mr. Fein, thus, falls into a simple logical fallacy. To remove the motto would not be "neutral." On the contrary, it would be "anti-Christian." Religious neutrality is impossible. As Plato put it, "The rejection of a dogma itself implies a dogma." So, the removal of the motto would represent, not "neutrality," but the substitution of one dogma in place of another; that is, the banning of the dogma of Ohio Christian sympathizers, in favor of the dogma of the ACLU and Mr. Fein.

Mr. Fein correctly says, "government has no business in boosting one religion over another." Yet, that is exactly what the state government would be doing were this declaration of Christ to be kicked out of Ohio.

There's a dilemma here. Whatever Ohio does whether it removes the motto or retains it one faith will be favored and another disfavored. The solution is obvious. Ohio should hold a state referendum, perhaps at the next general election. In a democracy such as ours, the decision about what faith is to prevail in Ohio must rest not with the ACLU, Mr. Fein or the federal appeals court, but with the majority of the people of the state.

GEOFFREY SHAW

Charlottesville

{}

Bruce Fein writes, "If the establishment clause of the First Amendment means anything, it means government has no business in boosting one religion over another." He, thus, joins the American Civil Liberties Union in its opposition to Ohio's motto that "With God All Things Are Possible."

Mr. Fein is wrong on two counts. First, except for those who believe in a "living" Constitution (i.e., no Constitution at all), "Government" is mentioned in the First Amendment only as the object of the people's guaranteed right to petition it. The amendment's religion clauses apply specifically to Congress. If, therefore, government is restrained by the First Amendment, it can only be the federal government, not the government established under the Ohio Constitution.

Second, the establishment clause, in any decent interpretation of the First Amendment, must be held as an equal partner with the free exercise clause, not used as a hammer to obliterate it. Because the Supreme Court routinely falls into the same error Mr. Fein makes, children and educators in school districts throughout the country are in utter confusion about those children's rights freely to exercise their religion on school grounds. The free exercise clause has been denatured into ritual drivel and exerts no restraint whatsoever on the government it was intended to restrain.

Evidently, Mr. Fein accepts the legitimacy of the so-called doctrine of incorporation, flowing from expansive interpretations of the 14th Amendment's due process language, under the aegis of which such constitutional perversions occur. This nefarious doctrine is the primary instrument of the liberal assault on family, tradition, even reason itself those treasures to which Mr. Fein is usually such an able defender.

FRANK CREEL

Arlington

{}

I read Bruce Fein's column and fully agree with him on his analysis of the origin of the quotation and the intent of the legislators of Ohio when they adopted the motto, "With God All Things Are Possible." His arguments are excellent, but I still think the motto should be left alone.

I bought a book of short stories by Edgar Allen Poe many years ago. When I read "The Gold Bug," I found that the editor had altered all of the dialogue spoken by Jupiter to remove the black dialect that Poe had used. I was angry because the editor was altering history because he was offended (or felt some reader would be offended) by the inclusion of a dialect that was a reminder of slavery. We need to see the story the way Poe wrote it, or we have an incorrect picture of both Poe and the manner and times in which he wrote.

Altering something done in the past creates a false picture of history. It is also unfair to those who adopted what was altered since they are no longer around to defend their decisions.

If the United States were to adopt a motto today, would we pick "In God We Trust?" Probably not. To me, the motto recalls the patriotic men of Fort McHenry as they fought against the British fleet. It also recalls Francis Scott Key and "The Star Spangled Banner." Should we scrap that, too?

Our past is our past. To some an event is heroic, while to others it is not. However, it does not help to erase it. Forcing Ohio to change its motto will create a climate of resentment that will not disappear for a long time.

Leave the past alone. To achieve peace with one another, we must concentrate on the future.

AUSTIN LOWREY III

Springfield

{}

There is absolutely nothing uniquely Christian about the words "With God All Things Are Possible." Anyone who believes in a Supreme Being must, by definition, believe that with that Supreme Being all things are possible, or else that being wouldn't be very supreme. The essence of this quote could be found in any religious book. The fact that Jesus has expressed this thought does not make it uniquely Christian any more than "I am a Child of God" is uniquely Mormon.

By this logic we would need to remove all quotes because some religious figure may have said it. The issue is not who said it but what the words mean. In this case, the words should inspire all and offend none for no offense was intended.

It is indeed a sad day when we must allow filth to be displayed as art and must disallow quotes such as this in the name of the law.

MARTIN RICH

Fredericksburg, Va.

Land mines not part of U.N. peacekeeping operations

Contrary to the assertion in the Inside the Ring column, the United Nations is not having second thoughts about using land mines in its peacekeeping operations ("Good mines," May 12).

Under the rules of engagement drawn up for the U.N. Mission in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL) and signed on April 11 by Undersecretary-General Bernard Miyet of the Department of Peacekeeping Operations, the use of mines and booby traps or chemical assets used as weapons is prohibited.

The United Nations has given no authorization for supplying land mines to its mission in Sierra Leone.

The Inside the Ring columnists can be assured that their premise is correct that the "United Nations remains a bastion of political opposition to land mines."

FRED ECKHARD

Spokesman for the secretary-general

United Nations

New York

Will New York mayor pick up points from the left?

I am surprised that the usually astute media political analysts have not unmasked New York Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani's brilliant strategy. He has learned the lessons of the Clinton White House: An adulterous scandal will have those who count rushing to your defense.

Mr. Giuliani can expect the feminists, the liberal media, the Hollywood intelligentsia, the Rev. Jesse Jackson and other pious gentlemen and ladies of the cloth and the entire Democratic membership of Congress to rally in support of his candidacy. There is even hope for his marriage. President Clinton announced last week that despite the Monica Lewinsky scandal his marriage is better than ever. (Memo to marriage counselors: Tell your clients to try adultery therapy.)

If Mr. Giuliani's strategy backfires he can always claim that he was not technically guilty of adultery and that it all depends on how you define "marriage."

ROBERT A. WOLPERT

Fairfax

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide