More and More Ridiculous
Recently, the state of South Carolina state Legislature authorized the Department of Motor Vehicles to begin offering license plates with a picture of a yellow cross over a stained glass window, and the words "I Believe" on the bottom. The measure was passed 109-0, thus passing into law without requiring he signature of Governor Mark Sanford.
As you can imagine, this has ignited a firestorm of civil libertarians, church-and-state separatists, Jewish and Islamic advocates, and left-wing media outlets, who have cried "Foul!" at the fact that the State of South Carolina has apparently established a religion!
Wait a minute, that was done before... The Constitution of the State of South Carolina reads, and I quote :
We, the people of the State of South Carolina, in Convention assembled, grateful to God for our liberties, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the preservation and perpetuation of the same.
How dare they!
Leading the fight is a guy by the name of Barry Lynn, who goes by the name "Rev". Barry Lynn. I put my fingers in the air and make the quotation marks, because while the good "Rev." is apparently an ordained minister in the United Church of Christ, I cannot find any reference to him actually ministering anywhere. "Rev." is actually a lawyer, who has worked at various jobs for the UCC at a national level. He is currently the executive director of a group with the unwieldy name of "Americans United for Separation of Church and State," which was founded in the 40's ostensibly to keep Catholic schools from getting Federal subsidies. (It alternatively cracks me up and makes me said when these supposed "ministers" do things that are so anti-Gospel. Imagine proclaiming your faith! Shonda!)
Many people (including a lot of judges, unfortunately) do not really understand the First Amendment. Freedom of religion is not at all the same thing as freedom from religion. The fact that South Carolina is offering these plates is in no way endorsing Christianity. They are not compelling anyone to get them; in fact, one would have to pay extra! In fact, South Carolina Lieutenant Governor Andre Bauer has offered to pay the fee to the manufacturer of the plates (don't prisoners do that anymore?) for making the initial stamping out of his own pocket, so the State wouldn't even be funding the silly things. They would be generating revenue for the state from plate #1. (Which I would hope Bauer would get.)
Of course, a lawsuit has already been filed in U.S. District Court in South Carolina. I'm no lawyer, (like the "rev" is) but I'm not sure that this is even a federal issue. What is relevant is if the plates violate the constitution of the State of South Carolina, not the Federal constitution. After all, the Constitution states "Congress shall make no law..." not the S.C. state legislature. Hopefully, this matter will get referred to the South Carolina court system, where it may get more of a fair shake.
A similar bill was recently turned down in Florida, but there is a movement afoot in Alabama to take up the torch. I have, obviously, no problem with it; nor would I have an issue with a similar plate issued with a Star of David or an Islamic crescent and star. Everyone has to believe in something, right? What do you think?