Thursday, April 24, 2008

The Church of the Vanity Plate...

The Associated Press is reporting that the State of Florida is considering a vanity plate that would feature the words, "I Believe" along with a picture of a cross and a stained glass window. Florida already makes provision for a variety of license plates with a portion of the revenue going to various charities represented by the license plate. The plate is, of course, highly controversial since it forces the discussion of church and state issues once again.

According to the AP article written by Jessica Gresco, "The problem with the state manufacturing the plate is that it 'sends a message that Florida is essentially a Christian state' and, second, gives the 'appearance that the state is endorsing a particular religious preference,' said Howard Simon, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida." Does it really? By that logic the ichthus fish on my rear window must mean that Toyota is a Christian car manufaturer. It's absolutely absurd! Anything on my car including my license plate (now that we allow vanity plates) is simply a statement of my values--not the states. Now if the only plate available featured the words, "I love Jesus", then you might have a point. But you don't have a point since you can get a whole variety of plates including the normal cheap one (my preference).

The article also states that, "Some lawmakers say the state should be careful. Rep. Kelly Skidmore said she is a Roman Catholic and goes to Mass on Sundays, but she believes the 'I Believe' plate is inappropriate for the government to produce. 'It's not a road I want to go down. I don't want to see the Star of David next. I don't want to see a Torah next. None of that stuff is appropriate to me,' said Skidmore, a Democrat who voted against the plate in committee. 'I just believe that.'" Great...and no one is suggesting that you put anything on your license plate except the expiration sticker. I, for one, see many symbols on cars without freaking out. I even pull up close to read the small bumper stickers that the liberal activists put on their cars (some are quite funny).

You'll really like this: "The bill creating the "I Believe" plate would also create an "In God We Trust" plate to benefit the children of soldiers and law enforcement officers whose parents have died. It also could face opposition as a violation of the separation of church and state.
An Indiana plate with the same "In God We Trust" phrase has been challenged by the ACLU, but the courts so far have deemed it legal, arguing that it is comparable with other specialty plates". don't want the national motto on a government issued license plate. What's wrong with these people?

Finally this: "Simon, of the ACLU, said approval of the plate could prompt many other groups to seek their own designs, and they could claim discrimination if their plans were rejected. That could even allow the Ku Klux Klan to get a plate, Simon said". First of all, the KKK is not a church, and therefore has nothing to do with this issue in Florida which revolves around church/state issues. Secondly, what's to keep the KKK from requesting a plate now? It seems that they can go through the same process that others have and request a plate if they desire which is precisely what the "I Believe" folks are doing.

In conclusion, the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution states, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances". Alright...let's think about it: Does allowing tax payers to purchase for an additional fee a vanity plate that says, "I believe" in any way establish a religion? I'll answer for you--no! A slogan on a plate does not a religion make. Secondly, is it possible that by allowing some messages and censoring others (the religious type), that the state is prohibiting free speech and practicing descrimination on the basis of religion? Yes--it's quite likely. Wouldn't it be interesting if the ACLU began to spend as much time on the "free exercise" clause as they do on the "establishment" clause?

I think that I'll go out to the garage and move my fish sticker to my license plate just to see if anyone notices.

You can read the entire AP article here.

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