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What Is the State Motto of Ohio?

Ohio's state motto, "With God, All Things Are Possible," reflects a spirit of optimism and faith in the limitless potential of its people. Adopted in 1959, this powerful phrase encapsulates the state's values and aspirations. How does this motto shape the identity and actions of Ohioans? Join us as we explore its impact on the Buckeye State.
Britt Archer
Britt Archer

The state of Ohio has had two mottos, and they each made people unhappy for different reasons. “With God All Things Are Possible” became the state motto of Ohio in 1959 and remains the official motto today. It was selected at the suggestion of a boy, James Mastronardo of Cincinnati, who submitted the Biblical phrase to the state. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Ohio filed a lawsuit in 1997 challenging the use of the motto on the state seal and in other official capacities, such as displaying it on state buildings and on official letterheads. The ACLU’s suit called the new state motto of Ohio unconstitutional, alleging it clearly stated a preference for Christianity over other forms of religion.

The United States District Court in Ohio ruled in 1998 against the ACLU and its co-plaintiff, a minister of the Presbyterian faith. The court said the state motto of Ohio is no more sectarian than other Bible phrases that have come into common use. The ruling went in favor of the defendants, which included the state governor, a state senator, the Department of Taxation commissioner and the secretary of state. The ruling cited the United States’ use of “In God We Trust” as the country’s motto, and a handful of other states’ mottos, which also refer to God. The state motto of Ohio could remain in official service, including its inscription on a public building.

“With God All Things Are Possible” replaced Ohio's original motto, Imperium in Imperior.
“With God All Things Are Possible” replaced Ohio's original motto, Imperium in Imperior.

“With God All Things Are Possible” replaced the original motto, Imperium in Imperior. The first state motto of Ohio means “An Empire Within an Empire.” It reigned as the official motto for just two years after its adoption in 1865. Ohio got rid of the motto because the phrase “smacked too much of royalty” and gave the state a pretentious air. Some people also disliked it because it was a Latin phrase.

A Republican governor, Jacob D. Cox, a former Civil War general, championed the Latin phrase. Democrats of the day disliked it intensely, saying it did not fit in with democracy. When a majority of Democrats came into office in the next election, they abolished the first state motto of Ohio.

For more than 90 years following the Democrats’ action, there was no official state motto. James Mastronardo, who was called Jimmie, changed that with his suggestion of “With God All Things Are Possible.” He was a sixth grader who attended the Hartwell School in his hometown.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the state motto of Ohio?

The state motto of Ohio is "With God, all things are possible." This phrase was adopted as the official motto in 1959 and reflects the general spirit of optimism and faith in a higher power that is meant to guide the citizens of Ohio. The motto is derived from the Bible, specifically from the book of Matthew 19:26, which emphasizes the belief in the possibility of overcoming obstacles with divine assistance.

When was Ohio's state motto officially adopted?

Ohio's state motto, "With God, all things are possible," was officially adopted on October 1, 1959. The adoption followed a joint resolution of the Ohio General Assembly, which sought to encapsulate the values and faith of Ohio's citizens in a succinct and meaningful phrase that would serve as a guiding principle for the state.

Has Ohio's state motto ever been challenged legally?

Yes, Ohio's state motto has faced legal challenges. In 1997, the motto was challenged in the case of ACLU v. Capitol Square Review and Advisory Board. The United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit ruled that the motto did not violate the First Amendment, as it did not endorse a specific faith or religion. The Supreme Court declined to review the case, effectively upholding the motto's constitutionality.

Where can you find Ohio's state motto displayed?

Ohio's state motto is prominently displayed across various state properties and documents. One notable location is the Ohio Statehouse, where the motto is inscribed. It can also be found on the state seal and is often included in government correspondence, publications, and official statements, symbolizing the guiding principles of the state's governance and culture.

Are there any other symbols associated with Ohio's state motto?

While Ohio's state motto stands on its own as a symbol of the state's values, it is often associated with the state seal of Ohio, which features a circular design with an agricultural landscape and a rising sun, symbolizing the state's potential and growth. The motto complements the imagery of the seal, reinforcing the idea of limitless possibilities with the support of a higher power.

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    • “With God All Things Are Possible” replaced Ohio's original motto, Imperium in Imperior.
      By: Iryna Volina
      “With God All Things Are Possible” replaced Ohio's original motto, Imperium in Imperior.