Ohio Lawmakers Speak Out Against Pledge Decision

By MALIA RULON, Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON (AP) - If the state of Ohio can keep its motto "With God, All Things Are Possible," the Pledge of Allegiance should retain the words "under God," Sen. George Voinovich said.

Voinovich and other Ohio congressional members said they disagreed with a declaration Wednesday by a federal appeals court that reciting the Pledge of Allegiance in public schools is unconstitutional because of the phrase.

"I am shocked, saddened and exasperated by liberal efforts to eliminate any and all references to God in our country," said Voinovich, a Republican.

In a 2-1 decision, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said the phrase "one nation under God" amounts to a government endorsement of religion in violation of the separation of church and state.

When Voinovich was Ohio governor, the 6th Circuit Court ruled that the state's motto is constitutional and is not an endorsement of Christianity even though it quotes a Bible verse.

Congress passed a resolution in 2000 expressing support for Ohio's motto, which is inscribed in the state capitol in Columbus.

"We eventually prevailed when the motto was ruled constitutional," Voinovich said. "I am confident that this ruling will be overturned."

Other Ohio lawmakers -- Republicans and Democrats -- joined Voinovich in criticizing the ruling.

"This bizarre ruling shows us how far away this leftist judge has strayed from the fundamental principles and values on which our nation was founded," said Rep. Bob Ney, a Republican. "If our founding fathers were alive today, they would be furious at this abhorrent blasphemy on the altar of freedom."

Democratic Rep. Ted Strickland said he stands by the pledge.

"It's unfortunate the Ninth Circuit made this decision. I am confident it will be overturned," he said.

Republican Rep. Michael Oxley called the court's ruling absurd.

"What are they going to turn their attention to next, 'God Bless America?' This decision is so out of touch with prevailing law and sentiment in our country that it's laughable," he said.

Republican Rep. Dave Hobson questioned whether the ruling would lead to the removal of the words "In God We Trust" from American money or eliminating the congressional prayer room and chaplain.

"Is this the reality that we want to create? Must God only be praised in the voice of the individual and from private homes and established houses of worship? I truly hope not," he said.

John Boehner, who is Republican chairman of the House Education and the Workforce Committee, said he is concerned about how the ruling could affect students.

"Today's ruling not only affects them because they recite the Pledge of Allegiance each school day, but it also provides them a great lesson on government -- and just how foolish it can be at times," he said.

(Copyright 2002 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)