Federal judge orders South Carolina to stop making Christian license plates

posted at 7:37 pm on December 11, 2008 by Allahpundit

Remember this? SC wanted to offer custom plates with crosses on them, but in order to minimize the Establishment Clause risk, they figured they should eliminate the normal practice of letting some group profit by sponsoring the plates. Solution: The Christian plates ended up being nine-tenths cheaper than the others, thereby giving them special treatment in the form of a competitive advantage.

Anyway, no dice. Smells like … victory:

A federal judge says South Carolina must stop marketing and making licenses plates that feature the image of a cross and the words “I Believe.”…

U.S. District Judge Cameron McGowan Currie said the case needs to be heard in court. In the meantime, the judge said the Department of Motor Vehicles cannot take any more orders for the plates…

Currie’s ruling said specifically that the DMV would have to remove any advertising for the plate on its website.

And in fact, the department changed its web page late Thursday afternoon.

Here’s the judge’s order. All you really need to read is the paragraph starting at the bottom of page 3. Exit question: More or less irritating than the atheist display in the Washington state capitol?


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First, you have no idea who I am, or what I believe in so to presume you know how I would react to any situation is an indication of the lack of respect you must hold for anyone who doesn’t adhere to your views.

Secondly, there is no “obvious” legal principle at issue here. If it was that “obvious” we wouldn’t be talking about it, or having judges staying license plates.

Perhaps it’s your zeal and prejudice against religion that blinds you. I seriously doubt the intent of the 14th Amendment was to enact gay marriage, and strike down license plates and nativity scenes. The intent was to to give former slaves full recognition … and not to prevent the atheist’s constant worry of a budding Christian Theocracy … which no doubt a license plate with a cross will be more than enough to start.

darwin on December 11, 2008 at 11:01 PM

On Point the First: Frankly, I’m disturbed that you wouldn’t be up in arms over the “Hail Satan” plate–I’d be mad as hell about it myself. I, like all good Americans, am opposed to the violation of the rights of any individual by any party for any reason.

On Point the Second: The failure of someone, somewhere, to accept a thing does not make the thing in question less than obvious–look at how many 9/11 Troofers there are in the world. The facts are plain as day, but they refuse, for whatever reason, to acknowledge them.

On Point the Third: The intent of the XIVth Amendment was to grant equal protection under the law to all persons. The framers of that particular amendment could not have imagined all of the asinine ways state legislatures would come up with to violate the rights of individuals, so they intended instead to ban all rights violations. Simple.

hicsuget on December 11, 2008 at 11:11 PM

Not good enough–it still constitutes the use of government property to proselytize for a particular set of religious (dis)beliefs.

hicsuget on December 11, 2008 at 11:01 PM

I see … so how do you feel with state run schools installing foot baths and muslim specific prayer rooms?

darwin on December 11, 2008 at 11:13 PM

How about letting the State of South Carolina decide if they want these plates or not?

Wait, that would be following the Constitution. My bad.

HYTEAndy on December 11, 2008 at 11:19 PM

South Carolina….

SO WHAT!!!!!!! Send a nice cake to the judge and keep making the plates.

Join the Line!

Love,
Texas

Limerick on December 11, 2008 at 11:21 PM

Yay, nothing says victory like atheist fascism.

Darth Executor on December 11, 2008 at 11:33 PM

On Point the First: Frankly, I’m disturbed that you wouldn’t be up in arms over the “Hail Satan” plate–I’d be mad as hell about it myself. I, like all good Americans, am opposed to the violation of the rights of any individual by any party for any reason.

I’m glad you’re disturbed because I never gave any indication how I feel towards “Hail Satan” plates … you presumed, again.

On Point the Second: The failure of someone, somewhere, to accept a thing does not make the thing in question less than obvious–look at how many 9/11 Troofers there are in the world. The facts are plain as day, but they refuse, for whatever reason, to acknowledge them.

The failure of “someone”? Again, nowhere in historical literature or writings is there a definitive “government must be totally separated from anything that may imply endorsement of any religion”. If there were, we wouldn’t be having this discussion. In fact, that’s probably how the 1st Amendment would have been written. It wasn’t. So to assume that the final word has been written is wrong. The tendency now seems to be actually reaching the point where “free exercise thereof” is a forgotten term. All we have to go on is “Congress shall make no law regarding an establishment of religion” and anyone who does a cursory review of written materials can come to the conclusion it was crafted to prevent the establishment of a national religion … to enact a law.

On Point the Third: The intent of the XIVth Amendment was to grant equal protection under the law to all persons. The framers of that particular amendment could not have imagined all of the asinine ways state legislatures would come up with to violate the rights of individuals, so they intended instead to ban all rights violations. Simple.

You forgot to add they couldn’t have imagined all the asinine ways people would come up with to invent “rights”, or preclude the rights of others. So really, it’s not so simple.

darwin on December 11, 2008 at 11:35 PM

You forgot to add they couldn’t have imagined all the asinine ways people would come up with to invent “rights”, or preclude the rights of others. So really, it’s not so simple.

darwin on December 11, 2008 at 11:35 PM

The right to “freedom of conscience,” as it was called in the Founders’ day, is not an invented right; it is a particular manifestation of each man’s self-evident, inalienable right to liberty.

Here, for your edification, is one of the many quotes from “historical literature or writings” that you seem to have missed:

Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between man & his god, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legitimate powers of government reach actions only, and not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof, thus building a wall of separation between church and state.
–Thomas Jefferson
Jan.1.1802.

hicsuget on December 12, 2008 at 12:31 AM

I see … so how do you feel with state run schools installing foot baths and muslim specific prayer rooms?

darwin on December 11, 2008 at 11:13 PM

I don’t like it at all. I see it as a state endorsement of a particular religion: no different an issue legally than the South Carolina license plates. How, darwin, do you distinguish the two cases?

hicsuget on December 12, 2008 at 12:33 AM

And with this blog post ALLAHPUNDIT destroys his last bit of intellectual credibility by comparing these license plates (which people CHOOSE TO BUY AND HAVE ON THEIR OWN PROPERTY) to an atheist sign that is wrongly posted in a section of government property reserved for religious displays.

Thanks ALLAHPUNDIT!

TheMightyQuinn on December 12, 2008 at 12:34 AM

Yay, nothing says victory like atheist fascism.

Darth Executor on December 11, 2008 at 11:33 PM

Yes, because the essence of fascism is using peaceful, legal means to thwart government overreach and to protect individual rights. Ever hear of Godwin’s law?

hicsuget on December 12, 2008 at 12:35 AM

And with this blog post ALLAHPUNDIT destroys his last bit of intellectual credibility by comparing these license plates (which people CHOOSE TO BUY AND HAVE ON THEIR OWN PROPERTY) to an atheist sign that is wrongly posted in a section of government property reserved for religious displays.

Thanks ALLAHPUNDIT!

TheMightyQuinn on December 12, 2008 at 12:34 AM

A license plate is not private property; it is the property of the issuing state. Bumper stickers with religious slogans (private property displayed on private property) are still permitted. Allahpundit’s intellectual credibility remains fully intact, but the same cannot be said about yours.

hicsuget on December 12, 2008 at 12:38 AM

I’m still trying to figure out why anyone cares about this.

One Angry Christian on December 12, 2008 at 12:43 AM

Exit question: More or less irritating than the atheist display in the Washington state capitol?

Funny thing is AP doesn’t likely care about this issue. He needs participation and traffic. Controversy does it. I don’t see how it is a victory that you kept a work of art from being displayed.

Oh N-O. No he di’nt. He di’nt just say religious symbols and artifacts should be protected under the constitution under freedom of speech as art. The nativity isn’t religious, it is artwork. . . as is the license plate.

As is the 10 commandments statues and displays. IT is art. . . to evoke feeling and emotion. It is unconstitutional for the government to stifle such displays.

ThackerAgency on December 12, 2008 at 1:00 AM

darwin on December 11, 2008 at 11:13 PM

By your posts, I am assuming you don’t know much about marketing.
There was a market for this plate, so they made the plate to bring in more revenue.
When you say “foot baths” what revenue does that bring in, or if someone made a “satanic” license plate, would that bring in revenue enough to make it worth while? I doubt it.
That is why you have different plates, so the dept. can reap more revenue.
Here is North Carolina plates you can order. Now if you are a Jeff Gordon fan, and someone has an Earnhardt plate…that’s the same as having a “Satan” plate.
Welcome to the world of license plate profit centers…
If someone wants another plate, let the propose it and show the marketing projections to see if it is viable.

right2bright on December 12, 2008 at 1:30 AM

Dude, seriously? He was talking about license plates. They go on the car, your private property? That was his point.

apollyonbob on December 11, 2008 at 8:14 PM

Not a dude, actually.

I thought my other posts covered that.

License plates are made by the government (maybe even by people incarcerated by the government – do prisoners still make them?), sold by the government, and must be purchased and displayed by law. They are an official document, not a mode of expression, religious or otherwise. Making Christian plates means we need to make plates for every religion (and non-religion) imaginable. Imagine the costs. And, do you want your state to issue Satanist plates? I sure don’t.

I agree with the folks who think that this plates thing has gotten out of hand. I personally think there’s a public safety risk to having plates that are not standardized. (How do I know it’s a real plate? How easy is it to read the numbers/letters off on some of these designs?) And I think it’s a really bad idea to select some non-profit groups to support with these novelty plates (I realize not the issue here), in part because some of those groups (like many environmental groups) are pretty close to the line of being political lobbying groups.

I miss the old blue and white MD plate, the light gold and yellow Jersey plate, the blue and orange NY plate… What can I say? I’m a simple woman.

Y-not on December 11, 2008 at 8:38 PM

If you want to argue there should be only one plain standard license plate available, that’s a fair argument. But it’s completely irrelevant, because that’s not the way these license plates have been done. The principle of allowing customized license plates has been going on for some time. To declare that religious organizations should be prohibited from participating in those custom license plate programs is to deny them rights that others already have.

This judge, using typical bone-headed liberal “thinking,” has managed to violate the First Amendment by prohibiting the free exercise of religion for the purpose of “protecting” the First Amendment. In effect, this judge has declared Christians to have fewer rights than, say, HAM radio operators or save-the-whales activists.

The First Amendment requires two things: 1) Don’t establish a church 2) Don’t interfere with the free exercise of religion. The judge is squinting so hard at the first issue that he can’t see the second issue.

theregoestheneighborhood on December 12, 2008 at 2:43 AM

What a shameful ruling!

EscapeVelocity on December 12, 2008 at 2:52 AM

Solution: Offer a completely black plate with white letters and “I Don’t Believe” at the bottom for the same price. Problem solved with no litigation.

KSgop on December 11, 2008 at 7:44 PM

Not good enough–it still constitutes the use of government property to proselytize for a particular set of religious (dis)beliefs. (License plates are government property–if you don’t believe me, try moving out of state without returning your old one.) Either there must exist a license plate for every idiotic sect and cult, or there must exist a license plate for no religious viewpoints at all.

A better solution would be to buy a bumper sticker.

hicsuget on December 11, 2008 at 11:01 PM

Even a liberal should be able to grasp that these license plates are only given to those who specifically request them. These are voluntary, custom license plates, as used for organizations that want to raise a little bit of money from people specifically buying custom license plates.

Even a liberal should understand that your personal hostility to religion and the government’s required neutrality to any specific institution of religion does not permit you to restrict the religious freedom of others.

If it’s permissible for HAM radio operators to buy a custom license plate, then it’s ludicrous to argue that a Christian organization should be prohibited from doing so. Does a Christian organization have fewer rights than a secular organization?

Your whole argument is based on flawed logic and inconsistent reasoning that ignores the issue of how such a custom license plate can constitute “establishment of religion” when it’s purely voluntary and offered on the same terms as other custom license plates.

theregoestheneighborhood on December 12, 2008 at 2:53 AM

theregoestheneighborhood on December 12, 2008 at 2:53 AM

Waaah the secularists are out to get you.

You want to display your religion, go get a damn bumper sticker. The less religion in the government (Christans, Jews, Muslims), the better off we all are.

A Axe on December 12, 2008 at 2:59 AM

Federal judge does not seem very federalist.

silverfox on December 12, 2008 at 3:11 AM

*sigh* Arguing over what hideous, idolatrous pictures go on the plates while ignoring how the money collected for these plates is being squandered on socialist government programs.

This country is doomed.

TMK on December 12, 2008 at 3:49 AM

I like what Indiana has done. They put the national motto “In God We Trust” on one version of our license plates. Why not…it’s on our money. The secularists are having a hell of a time (pun intended) fighting it. Some fargin sneaky bastiches in Indiana.

SKYFOX on December 12, 2008 at 5:30 AM

Uh oh.

The nation, nay, WESTERN CIVILIZATION will now collapse in on itself because of this verdict in 3…2..1…

;-)

Good Lt on December 12, 2008 at 8:09 AM

The State needs to stay out of the promotion of religion stuff.

What’s next? Allahu Akbar?

Exit answer: Neither. I’m not required to go to Wa. State’s capital and purchase a copy of that atheist ‘me too’ tantrum, and I don’t live in S.C.

locomotivebreath1901 on December 12, 2008 at 8:19 AM

A federal judge issued a temporary injunction during a court hearing Thursday after opponents said the plates violate the separation of church and state.

Yup. That’s how they do it every time. Use the so-called “constitutional separation of church and state” myth — even though no such phrase is found in the U.S. Constitution or in the Declaration of Independence, which are America’s primary founding documents.

apacalyps on December 12, 2008 at 10:26 AM

We feel really good about what’s happened today,” said Rev. Thomas Summers of of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, which opposed the plates.

Hahahaha….oh, please. Whenever you hear a title like “Reverend” it automatically gives the whole thing a lack of credibility. I get a kick out of these folks who refer to themselves as “Reverend,” as if they are representing Christians. Most Reverends I hear about are liberal and take anti-God stances. Reverend Al Sharpton, Reverend Jackson, they don’t speak for me that for sure. I don’t even think it’s biblical for a minister to use the title “Reverend.” As far as I know, the word is found only once in all the Bible, and is in reference to God, not man. Reverend Thomas Summers of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, hahahaha… you stay classy, Thomas.

apacalyps on December 12, 2008 at 10:45 AM

I remember a time long ago…before theme plates…we managed to get by without holy plates. All of a sudden it’s equivalent to crucifixion. I say make special plates for Veterans only so they can get out of tickets and the reset of us can use the same plain jane tags.

ronsfi on December 12, 2008 at 10:53 AM

Vanity plates need to stop being made, period! All I want from the state for a license plate is a series of numbers and letters. Not some attempt at a work of art that I have to hang attach to my car.

SC.Charlie on December 12, 2008 at 10:56 AM

Your whole argument is based on flawed logic and inconsistent reasoning that ignores the issue of how such a custom license plate can constitute “establishment of religion” when it’s purely voluntary and offered on the same terms as other custom license plates.

theregoestheneighborhood on December 12, 2008 at 2:53 AM

Yes, I am a Liberal–but in the Lockean/Jeffersonian sense, not in the Rooseveltian/Clintonian sense. Thanks for noticing.

What you fail to grasp is that, while the Christian license plates are voluntary, they are government property provided by the government. This case is no different than government creation or sponsorship of a church in which membership is voluntary–it is still government endorsement of a religion.

The First Amendment protects a religious bumper sticker (or any other form of expression) sold by a private actor to another private individual and displayed on said individual’s private property. The same First Amendment prohibits a form of religious expression created by the government, offered by the government, or displayed on government property.

Remember, a government that can endorse Christianity can just as easily endorse Islam, Satanism, or atheism. Leave theocracy to the Iranians, please.

hicsuget on December 12, 2008 at 10:58 AM

Victory?

You directly describe muzzling individuals who choose these license plates over others as victory?

You are a pathetic person.

pabarge on December 12, 2008 at 11:25 AM

I just wish we had some good photoshoppers here (I am but not that creative) to fashion a Hail Satan plate that we could submit to SC to consider.

Seriously, where does it end? Do the muslims get to have a plate now? Do the Jews?

grdred944 on December 12, 2008 at 11:32 AM

How about letting the State of South Carolina decide if they want these plates or not?

That’s about it, isn’t it.

rightwingprof on December 12, 2008 at 11:48 AM

How about letting the State of South Carolina decide if they want these plates or not?

That’s about it, isn’t it.

rightwingprof on December 12, 2008 at 11:48 AM

Remember what happened when we let it up to South Carolina to decide if they wanted to have human slavery or not? No State has the leeway to violate rights specifically enumerated in the Constitution.

hicsuget on December 12, 2008 at 12:11 PM

I am directly in opposition to this judge. I believe anybody who believes in such nonsense, espcially to want to put it on you car, should be tagged so other drivers know they’re dealing with irrational people.

LevStrauss on December 12, 2008 at 12:41 PM

I believe anybody who believes in such nonsense, espcially to want to put it on you car, should be tagged so other drivers know they’re dealing with irrational people.

LevStrauss on December 12, 2008 at 12:41 PM

Huh?

apacalyps on December 12, 2008 at 12:43 PM

I believe anybody who believes in such nonsense, espcially to want to put it on you car, should be tagged so other drivers know they’re dealing with irrational people.

LevStrauss on December 12, 2008 at 12:41 PM

Please elaborate. Thank you, and I hope you have a nice Christmas.

apacalyps on December 12, 2008 at 12:44 PM

Remember what happened when we let it up to South Carolina to decide if they wanted to have human slavery or not? No State has the leeway to violate rights specifically enumerated in the Constitution.

hicsuget on December 12, 2008 at 12:11 PM

History and what the constitution says many times are too different things. The Constitution prevents the Federal Government from discriminating for or against religions thus “Congress shall make no law”, with Congress of course being the US Congress, since the federal government does not mandate what type of government each state has, if it applied to all governments it would state something like “the right of the people…shall not be infringed”. State governments, according to what the constitution says or actually does not say, can pass laws regarding religion. The only exception I could see is some sort of 14th amendment argument but the 14th amendment is rather vague.

LevStrauss on December 12, 2008 at 12:47 PM

Please elaborate. Thank you, and I hope you have a nice Christmas.

apacalyps on December 12, 2008 at 12:44 PM

Thank you, I will have a nice Christmas, such a great holiday that predates “Christ”.

But to elaborate, if people are involved in supernatural death worship then it would be useful to know that when I am on the same road as them.

LevStrauss on December 12, 2008 at 12:53 PM

LevStrauss on December 12, 2008 at 12:41 PM

Please elaborate, is right. Looks like your post was a very bad attempt at sarcasm.

Ryan Gandy on December 12, 2008 at 12:55 PM

Thank you, I will have a nice Christmas, such a great holiday that predates “Christ”.

LevStrauss on December 12, 2008 at 12:53 PM

Why even throw that in? It’s such a cheap shot. I’ve been around and I know that’s code for disdain. Christmas is in memory of the birth of Christ, therefore, the celebration, by it’s very definition, cannot predate Jesus Christ.

But to elaborate, if people are involved in supernatural death worship then it would be useful to know that when I am on the same road as them.

See, I don’t understand your logic here either. This might be hard to understand. But, since the world is here, there are only two choices. Somebody made it, or it made itself.

apacalyps on December 12, 2008 at 1:17 PM

The only exception I could see is some sort of 14th amendment argument but the 14th amendment is rather vague.

LevStrauss on December 12, 2008 at 12:47 PM

How about Article VI, section 2?

This Constitution, and the laws of the United States which shall be made in pursuance thereof; and all treaties made, or which shall be made, under the authority of the United States, shall be the supreme law of the land; and the judges in every state shall be bound thereby, anything in the Constitution or laws of any State to the contrary notwithstanding.

hicsuget on December 12, 2008 at 1:42 PM

theregoestheneighborhood on December 12, 2008 at 2:53 AM

Waaah the secularists are out to get you.

You want to display your religion, go get a damn bumper sticker. The less religion in the government (Christans, Jews, Muslims), the better off we all are.

A Axe on December 12, 2008 at 2:59 AM

TGTN, Clearly, you were wrong when you said, “even a liberal should understand.”

tom on December 12, 2008 at 3:12 PM

Your whole argument is based on flawed logic and inconsistent reasoning that ignores the issue of how such a custom license plate can constitute “establishment of religion” when it’s purely voluntary and offered on the same terms as other custom license plates.

theregoestheneighborhood on December 12, 2008 at 2:53 AM

Yes, I am a Liberal–but in the Lockean/Jeffersonian sense, not in the Rooseveltian/Clintonian sense. Thanks for noticing.

What you fail to grasp is that, while the Christian license plates are voluntary, they are government property provided by the government. This case is no different than government creation or sponsorship of a church in which membership is voluntary–it is still government endorsement of a religion.

The First Amendment protects a religious bumper sticker (or any other form of expression) sold by a private actor to another private individual and displayed on said individual’s private property. The same First Amendment prohibits a form of religious expression created by the government, offered by the government, or displayed on government property.

Remember, a government that can endorse Christianity can just as easily endorse Islam, Satanism, or atheism. Leave theocracy to the Iranians, please.

hicsuget on December 12, 2008 at 10:58 AM

This particular government property is paid for by the person who buys the tag. The state offers the opportunity to pay a little extra for the tag and get one customized for a particular group, with a message and perhaps a picture. You pay the extra, you get the extra custom feature. You’re not just allowed to opt out of the custom tag. You have to actually request the custom tag in order to get it.

No one claims a custom tag constitutes a government endorsement of the message on the tag. Until it’s a Christian message, and then the usual hateful suspects wrap themselves in flags of First Amendment Concerned Citizens and pretend that the government has just endorsed and established a church.

Clearly, you’re the one who can’t grasp the situation. Which explains this howler of an argument:

This case is no different than government creation or sponsorship of a church in which membership is voluntary–it is still government endorsement of a religion.

So, allowing some Christians to pay a little extra for a custom license plate that shows a Christian message, just like other people pay a little extra for a custom license plate that shows their message, is exactly the same as the government establishing a church but not requiring you to be a member of it.

Sure you don’t want to rethink that argument?

You also don’t grasp the First Amendment. It does not prohibit religious expression by anyone or institution of government, which is why our money says, “In God We Trust”, and we have invocations at public events and open Congress with prayer.

The First Amendment prohibits 2 things: (1) establishing a state church, and (2) restricting the free exercise of religion. Minor religious expressions or allowing individuals to express themselves in religious terms clearly do not establish a state church, but restricting those expressions does fall afoul of the second part of the First Amendment.

tom on December 12, 2008 at 3:45 PM

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