in June 2008 on behalf of four local clergy — the Rev. Dr. Thomas A. Summers, Rabbi Sanford T. Marcus, the Rev. Dr. Robert M. Knight and the Rev. Dr. Neal Jones as well as the Hindu American Foundation and the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee. In legal briefs, AU asserted that the “I Believe” license plate was unlike other specialty tags offered by the state. The measure authorizing the special plates was passed unanimously by both houses of the legislature, with the active support of Lt. Gov. Andre Bauer. Americans United also pointed out that some legislators openly admitted that they would not vote for similar plates for minority faiths.According to the Baptist news service,
A crowd reported as more than 400 people rallied in January at People's Baptist Church in Greer, S.C., in support of the "I Believe" license tag. Speakers included the lieutenant governor who first introduced the legislation allowing the plate. "There is free speech for every group in this state besides Christians," Bauer said, according to a report in the South Carolina Baptist Courier. "Every citizen has the right to free speech in this country. I don't understand why witnessing in public is considered unconstitutional. You don't even have to be a Christian to believe everyone deserves the freedom of speech."Surely the Baptists are wrong. It is not a good idea for politicians to make laws that put their religious beliefs on state-issued products and that is what happened. All of the state sponsors of the legislation to produce the plate are themselves Baptists. And the judge, Cameron Currie, was correct in his assessment that states are not in the business of issuing Christian plates. But why do states issue vanity plates in the first place? The extra revenue generated by such plates cannot make up for the risk that they present to other drivers. After all, who hasn't been driving behind someone with "BOSSLDY" or "HIOFCER" on their plates and not felt a sudden urge to ram your car right into the rear end of theirs, thereby destroying the offending vanity plate for all time. Then there are the sexual ones, the "NO PNTIES" plate or the "CUMGUZLR" ones riding around. How about the one spotted with "PLACENTA" on it? Or even the creepy ones with things like "CREEPY" or worse "BBYSHKR" on them. Really, baby shaker? If that's not an invitation to play bumper cars, then what is? States would probably be better off to divide the amount of revenue generated by the number of new licenses per year and just add that money onto our fees. That way we don't ever have to see "HOTSTUD" or even "FXYLDY" again. And crazy Christians don't get to once again make it seem like the US is a Christian country as opposed to a secular state with a variety of beliefs and nonbeliefs.
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