By on November 11, 2009

(courtesy nytimes.com)

A US District Judge has ruled that South Carolina’s proposed “I Believe” license plate (modeled on the already-banned Florida model, above) violates the First Amendment’s establishment clause.

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40 Comments on “What’s Wrong With This Picture: Flunked in Forida Edition...”


  • avatar
    John Horner

    The court got it right. Put all the bumper stickers you like on your car, there is no need to bring the government into it.

  • avatar
    Cammy Corrigan

    Absolutely correct. There should be a total separation of church and state, just like there is in France and Turkey. Personal belief is exactly that, personal!
     

  • avatar
    another_pleb

    Does this mean that I can’t have one with a picture of a Flying Saucer, a Leprechaun, the Loch Ness Monster and Big Foot?

  • avatar
    GS650G

    Someone who pays for this tag out of their pocket doesn’t make it a case of government establishing a religion or promoting it. Should the state issue regular tags to everyone with the Lord’s Prayer on the bottom and I’ll agree with the problem.
    I guess some people are intimidated by faith in front of them at a red light. Wouldn’t bother me either way. In the end we have more important things to worry about,  like red light cameras snapping pictures of the Believer’s tags.

    • 0 avatar
      wsn

      The real problem is that some people are intimidated by a different faith.
      And, BTW, a license plate is not the property of the car register. It’s the property of the state government. Thus, everything on the plate represents the view of the state government.

    • 0 avatar
      jaje

      The government should treat all individuals equal, therefore if there was a Christian themed state plate, then there’d have to be all other faiths.  What is easier than having to now provide plates that fit every religion or spiritual belief is to not do any at all – remember that the opposite of the belief of heaven is hell and that is a belief that should also get a license plate too.

  • avatar
    Mullholland

    Headline needs an “L” in Forida.

  • avatar
    stars9texashockey

    GS650G +1

  • avatar
    allythom

    Florida got it dead right.  Unless they do a Flying Spaghetti Monster plate, in which case, sign me up for one.

  • avatar
    slateslate

    Forget the Christianity plates…..I want my Presbyterian plates since all true Christians should know that salvation isn’t through the Catholic Church.

    • 0 avatar
      rpn453

      “I’m sorry; I’m afraid you were wrong… You chose the wrong religion.”
      “Well, what was the correct religion?”
      “I’m afraid it was the Mormons’. Yes, the Mormons’ was the correct answer.”

  • avatar
    jerseydevil

    Jesus warned about people who need to hang signs on themselves to tell others how holy they are.  Jesus said to avoid them. 

    Also, in a pluralistic society, there is no place for this.  It is rude and condesending – gee – rude and condescending behavior from religious folks.  who would thought?

  • avatar
    wsn

    The court is smart. Otherwise, sooner or later, there will be a flood of Scientology and polygamy plates.

  • avatar
    carve

    I personally dislike the plate.  However, at first I didn’t think it violated the establishment clause.  However, unless they offer a similar plate for EVERY religion, frrom Islam to Scientology to Pastafaranism to a cult with two members, it is promoting one religion ahead of others.

    I’d like to see a flying saucer with “I want to believe” :)

  • avatar
    carguy

    GS650G – The problem with argument is that when other religions asked for custom tags to reflect their belief, the request is generally rejected. That goes for other issues as well – Florida has rejected multiple attempts for a “Choice” tag to balance the “Choose life” tag. Keep religion and politics off tags altogether.

  • avatar
    JMII

    Like carguys said we already have issues in FL with the “Chose Life” plate. Here is a link to the over whelming list of FL plates:
    http://www.dmvflorida.org/florida-license-plate.shtml
    The PDF at the bottom of that page shows all them… its out of control down here. But I guess I shouldn’t talk, I’ve got the Indian River Lagoon Plate and my wife has the Sea Turtle plate.
     

  • avatar
    Bergwerk

    The only way this tag would be in violation of the Establishment Clause, would be if citizens of Florida were compelled to put it on their car.  Florida currently issues 114 different plates, for which the State charges an additional fee.  Florida has a specific procedure for an individual, or organization, to apply for a specialty tag (form RS-20).   Any organization can petition for a tag, the States interest is in incremental revenue.

    • 0 avatar
      carve

      If they consider this plate a standard “free exercise therof” of religion, and they don’t allow you to get a similar plate for any and all religions, then they are “prohibiting the free exercise thereof”.  Else, they are establishing religon.  It’s all or nothing, and making plates for ALL religions would be absurd, so the correct choice is “nothing”

    • 0 avatar
      jaje

      That is correct carve.  All or nothing.

  • avatar


    Q: Vanity and special interest plates usually come at a premium.  Often, part or all of the premium goes to a specific organization or cause… what was the intention for the $$$ collected from the “I Believe” plate?
     
    A wise friend once told me there are two things you shouldn’t talk about at the bar if you want to stay in one piece: politics and religion.  And with this issue, we’ve got both!  But, since this ain’t the bar…
     
    When will people get it through their heads that the concept of separation of church and state is not anti-religious, but rather protects freedom of and from religion for everyone?  Many people immigrated to the U.S. specifically to escape having the state involved in their religious life in any way.  The separation clause is what allowed that to happen, and the “I Believe” plate flies in the face of it.
     
    Can you think of a more obvious government sanctioning of a specific religious view than via a state-issued license plate?
     
    If you need a good example of why the “I Believe” plate is a bad idea, look no further than the various totalitarian regimes around the world and how they treat those who stray from the party’s line on religion… in some, you’ll lose respect, others, civil rights, yet others, your head.
     
    Slippery slope, folks, none more slippery.  If you like the freedom to practice religion as you see fit, you should applaud the District Judge’s ruling.

    • 0 avatar

      Those who push for the state to do various semi-religious things know there’s a slippery slope–it’s what they’re counting on.
      Maybe a little more knowledge of history would help. Maybe not.
      More than a few people see the cross as non-denominational. They don’t get that this isn’t actually the case.

  • avatar
    Stephan Wilkinson

    “Headline needs an “L” in Forida.”
    FUNKED IN FLORIDA?

  • avatar
    gslippy

    I believe, too, but I don’t need or want a special license plate to proclaim it.  Those who are upset with the ruling need to find a different crusade, but I also don’t think the state establishes religion when the purchase of such a plate is optional.  Both parties should forget about it.
    There are far too many vanity plates, anyway.  I preferred it when you could ID a plate from a distance.

  • avatar

    The court got this wrong on two counts.

    First, when I see the vanity plate  “NASTY XB” around town I don’t take from that the Gov. is dissing Toyota Scion or giving it props.
    Vanity plates are not Gov. saying anything about anything  as the plates are an expression of that particular tax payer;  nor is the Gov. establishing a religion through the vanity tag as the Gov. is not expressing anything in the first place.
    The court ruling does, however, restrict one’s “…free exercise thereof…” which is forbidden  for the Gov. to do, and is also the second point where the court got it wrong
    “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; ….”

     

    • 0 avatar
      carve

      If they consider the option to get this plate a free exercise of religion, and similar plates aren’t offered for ALL religions, they are prohibiting the free exercise of all those other religions.

      Less just simplify and not make license plates a religious issue.  Get a bumper sticker.

  • avatar
    50merc

    I’m with you, gslippy. We’re approaching the point where no two persons need to have the same license plate artwork.
    Seems to me the judge erred on the side of hostility to religion, not neutrality. The latter is what the Founders had in mind.  The plate and its extra cost  is optional, after all. But it’s not a big deal except to those who make a living stirring up controversy and the lawyers who prosper therefrom.
    I wonder what the response would be to a proposal to allow optional plates with the motto “I don’t believe.”
    Racism is condemned everywhere.  But Florida allows Seminoles to proclaim their ethnic heritage, while I’m pretty sure a request for “100% Aryan” would get nowhere.
    The only special plate that Florida issues that I’d want is the front plate for police officers, and that’s because it says simply “PO.” As in “pissed off”.  ‘Course, down in Dixie it can also mean “poor” as in “After the War of Yankee Aggression, all my folks were left po.”
     

  • avatar
    mrh1965

    How about doing away with this whole vanity plate thing, period.  Then we won’t have to hear about any such silly “controversies” in the future.  Here’s you license, plate, America:  black lettering on a white background.  Done.

  • avatar
    cdotson

    On one hand, I generally disagree with creation of such items.  I can see the potential legal repercussions should the DMV fail to offer equal representation to any number of organizations.
     
    On the other hand, how is this different than plain-jane vanity plates with a religious message?  I see countless such plates here in Virginia, enough to infer that there is no filter for religious messages.  I saw “EXTOLHM” just yesterday, and in the past few months have seen “PRAZHIM” and other such messages, always accompanied by religious stickers etc.
     
    I generally question how tight the filtering is because I’ve seen the vanity plate “SUKS2BU” which I would have never guessed would fly.  I wonder if I could sign up for “FOADUMF” or maybe “FSM FTW.”

    • 0 avatar
      carve

      I don’t think there’s a problem having a religious message in the lettering.  I’m sure FSM FTW would be just as fine as WWJD.  Whent only one religion is permitted a special plate DESIGN though is where the state is either favoring one religion over others, or not permitting all other religions equal opportunity.

  • avatar
    DearS

    Plate looks fine to me. I think rejecting things like this has people feeling more angry with others.

    • 0 avatar
      carve

      License plates are not a religious rite.  They’re totally unecessary for the religion.  I’d speculate this plate was created intentionally to stir up this sort of controversy in the “culture war”.

  • avatar
    Mark MacInnis

    The God that I believe in really doesn’t care what is on any license plate….only what is in my heart. 

    He also isn’t short of cash, mister.

  • avatar
    Mark MacInnis

    Also, driving my car 50+ miles to work each day and believing it will get me back home again, is a greater act of faith than anything I could put on my license plate….

  • avatar
    fincar1

    We’ve fallen prey in this country to bumper-sticker religion and bumper-sticker politics, and plates like this are just an extension of that. As an old-time license plate collector, I don’t much care for the graphic optional plates that proliferate in many states and exist in nearly all of them. In particular, the flat silk-screened items that my home state of Washington issues look like they could be easily counterfeited by any competent silk-screen shop.
    There is a small distinction between the design that a state approves for an optional plate and the letter/number sequence an owner chooses for a vanity plate. The former strongly implies state approval while I think the latter does not.

  • avatar
    210delray

    I chuckled at the one I saw in NYC that said THX ALLAH on an S class Mercedes.

  • avatar
    Stephan Wilkinson

    “remember that the opposite of the belief of heaven is hell and that is a belief that should also get a license plate too.”
    Say what?   My belief–it’s called atheism–is that the lights go out and your done.  Besides, if you want to “also get a license plate too,”  I think you’ll end up with two.

    • 0 avatar
      jaje

      “Say what?   My belief–it’s called atheism–is that the lights go out and your done.  Besides, if you want to “also get a license plate too,”  I think you’ll end up with two.”

      Well I never said that Atheism is that belief – a jump to a conclusion.  Satanic worship believes in the Devil and Hell over God and Heaven.  You can reply right under the post you want to comment on by hitting the reply button.  A new feature that TTAC has sorely missed.

  • avatar
    Oregon Sage

    One more for  the state has no business putting religious imagery and slogans on official license plates.  The owner of the vehicle is welcome to plaster all the nonsense or wisdom they want on the car.

  • avatar
    dean

    The court made the right call.  Others have eloquently expressed why.


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