Frank Williams
by Frank Williams
frespch and vnty pl8s

Should states be allowed to sell specialty license plates with religious messages? Stefan Lonce, author of a book on vanity license plates, doesn't think so [s]because he wants The New York Times to promote his book and we all know where they stand on the old church-state thing[/s]. The one-time New York Times op-ed contributor points out that federal courts consistently rule that vanity plates are protected under the First Amendment. Unless, that is, someone finds the plate offensive. Lonce advocates establishing a national database of "prohibited vanity plate messages, created with advice from First Amendment experts and open to public scrutiny." States would use the db to determine what's PC and what's not. Lonce doesn't even consider the fact that a plate that's considered "offensive" in one state would be perfectly acceptable in another. For example, religious messages prohibited by state law in Vermont are perfectly acceptable in most southern states. "As long as we have a reliable method for deciding what's allowed and what isn't," Lonce concludes. "I say the more, the merrier." And Lonce and his pals at The Grey Lady need to stop trying to say how the First Amendment should be interpreted for the rest of us.

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4 of 23 comments
  • Melllvar Melllvar on Jul 07, 2008
    Unless, that is, someone finds the plate offensive. "Free speech is meant to protect unpopular speech. Popular speech, by definition, needs no protection."

  • on Jul 07, 2008

    As long as it doesn't contain obvious profanity, I don't see what the big deal is. If it offends you, tough. I believe in limits to "free" speech, but I also believe in very limited limits. When I see something that offends me, whether it be a bumper sticker or a license plate, my first reaction is not "their should be a law against that"; it's "what a moron" or something similar. In other words, I think your freedom of speech extends to your right to say something that I think is stupid, and I expect you to afford me the same right.

  • on Jul 07, 2008
    Pch101 : July 5th, 2008 at 9:25 pm I feel like the real problem is all the people who want to complain on behalf of the people who MIGHT be offended. Before they were getting nutty about license plates, the super religious were busy burning witches, and punishing scientists who dared to show that sun doesn’t orbit the earth and that mankind evolved from other species. Anyone who dared put a GO SATAN or NO JESUS license plate on his or her car had better enjoy buying tires with astonishing frequency and appreciate random colors of paint being added to their cars, because you know that the thumpers would go absolutely nuts. It’s a no-win proposition. The DMV would be accused of being devil worshipers and the ACLU would be blamed for their defense of those godless Communists who dared to express contrary views on their plates. A lot of people don’t tend to like the First Amendment when it is used to protect others who disagree with them. Go figure. And goodness knows you'll never find any god-hating, earth-worshipping kooks vandalizing Hummers, Tahoes, or practically any other car that doesn't run on hemp. The rhetoric against a belief in God and the religion of this country's founders, Christianity, seems rather strident given that our constitution, including the freedom of speech, arose from the Christian principles of the 18th century.

  • BeyondBelief BeyondBelief on Jul 21, 2010

    I believe the rhetoric against exists only because the rhetoric for exists. There were many quaint and now outdated notions back in the 1700s: slavery, exorcism, the outing of witches, that sort of thing...