Oh my: Federal judge finds Christian license plates unconstitutional

It’s atheist Christmas!

Her ruling singled out [Lt. Gov. Andre] Bauer after he pushed a tag Christian advocates sought in Florida, but legislators there did not approve.

Bauer wanted to accomplish in South Carolina what had been unsuccessful in Florida, Currie wrote: To “gain legislative approval of a specialty plate promoting the majority religion: Christianity. Whether motivated by sincerely held Christian beliefs or an effort to purchase political capital with religious coin, the result is the same. The statute is clearly unconstitutional and defense of its implementation has embroiled the state in unnecessary (and expensive) litigation.”

Bauer said he wasn’t surprised by the ruling and would like to see it appealed.

“I don’t expect anything different from a liberal judge who was appointed by Bill Clinton,” Bauer said. “If she wants to single me out, so be it.”

Just for good measure, the judge ordered the state to cover the legal expenses of groups like Americans United who filed suit to stop the plates. And why not? Did anyone expect these things to pass constitutional muster? The outcome’s been a fait accompli since my first post on the subject more than a year ago. Waste a court’s time, pay the other party’s fee. That’s how it usually works in law. Or should.

But cheer up. Follow the link above and you’ll see that Plan B here involves a private group of Christians registering their organizational name as “I Believe” with the Secretary of State and then applying with the DMV to produce vanity plates with that slogan — and, er, a cross. Exit question: Does that solve the constitutional problem? Technically it’s now a private group, not the state, that’s responsible for the Christian symbolism, although of course the design would have to be approved by a state agency. And if it’s not okay, then what’s the difference between the private group’s plate and the religious symbols that appear on tombstones at Arlington?