Protest, Bell Casting Highlight July 4 In Ohio

EAST LIVERPOOL, Ohio (AP) - Call it a patriotic protest.

More than 200 residents of the eastern Ohio community of East Liverpool used the Fourth of July to show their disapproval of a federal appeals court decision that the Pledge of Allegiance phrase "one nation under God" is unconstitutional.

"To include the words 'under God' means we're not alone in our freedom," Mayor Dolores Satow told the flag-waving crowd at The Pledge Protest.

In the 2-1 decision on June 26, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco said the phrase amounted to a government endorsement of religion, violating the separation of church and state.

Protest host Ron Simmons, vice president of East Liverpool's Veterans City Council, received loud applause when he talked about his school days in the town 80 miles southeast of Cleveland.

"Kids read scripture, said the Lord's Prayer and pledged allegiance," Simmons said. "I don't need any judge to tell me that God is unconstitutional."

Parades, fireworks and cookouts were some of the popular events of choice across Ohio on Thursday.

In Downtown Cleveland, the 2002 Rock-n-Boom July 4th Fireworks show was a huge success. Thousands showed up to watch the brilliant display at Voinovich Park right along the Lake Erie shore and thousands more tuned in to Action News at 10 p.m. on 43 The Block to watch from home.

The Doo Dah Parade, an irreverent annual event in Columbus, satirized the waistline-challenged city's "Commit to be Fit!" campaign.

The parade theme was "Commit to be Lit!" Marchers included two men dressed as airline pilots, swigging beer and looking for Gate AA, in an apparent reference to two American West pilots accused this week of trying to fly an airliner while drunk.

One parade float celebrated gravy, entreating onlookers to "Commit to be Fat!" Other marchers ridiculed errant priests and politicians and the recent 31-cent per pack increase in cigarette taxes, with one sign urging Ohioans to save the state by smoking more.

The Ohio Bicentennial Commission used July 4 to continue its mission of getting a bicentennial bell cast in each of Ohio's 88 counties by the state's 200th birthday next year.

About 600 people crowded into the area around the Highland County Courthouse in Hillsboro to watch workers pour 2,200-degree molten bronze that will cool into a bell 2 feet high and 2 feet wide and weighing 250 pounds.

"There's a huge curiosity factor," said commission spokesman Fred Stratmann. "A lot of people like to show up to see what's going on."

Hillsboro is 50 miles east of Cincinnati.

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