If you live in Arizona and register your vehicle there, you have the option of ordering a special vanity plate with the words “In God We Trust” on it. Or at least you have that option for now. Democratic state Sen. Juan Mendez has introduced a bill that would stop the sale of these particular vanity plates, claiming that a portion of the money raised in this fashion is going to “a hate group.”
The group in question is the Alliance Defending Freedom, who we’ve written about here before. They provide legal defense work in cases aligned with conservative causes including the Masterpiece Cakeshop lawsuit and challenges to schools that have sought to allow boys access to girls’ locker rooms, showers, and bathrooms to placate transgender activists. The Southern Poverty Law Center previously declared them to be a “hate group” to the surprise of no one. (USA Today)
When Arizonans buy a license plate displaying the words “In God We Trust,” they are told the money promotes the motto, First Amendment rights “and the heritage of this state and nation.”
What they may not know is the money supports Alliance Defending Freedom, a controversial group based in Scottsdale whose mission statement is “to keep the doors open for the Gospel by advocating for religious liberty, the sanctity of life, and marriage and family.”
Because of that affiliation, one Democratic lawmaker now is proposing to get rid of the “In God We Trust” specialty license plates.
ADF is designated as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center because of its anti-LGBT views and claims that a “homosexual agenda” will destroy society.
Frankly, I would sooner see the SPLC declared a hate group before the ADF, since the SPLC really, really hates anything conservatives are in favor of. That’s not to say that I agree with every single position the ADF takes. (I remain unconvinced that there’s a secret, gay shadow government out there trying to cripple the nation and force everyone into same-sex marriages. That was sarcasm, by the way. They don’t actually say that.) But they have provided a lot of important legal help to people being targeted by left-wing extremists.
As to the question of the specific license plates under discussion, this is one more reminder that perhaps we should just do away with “specialized” license plates altogether. While I understand why some people like putting one on their car to signal their support for this or that idea, there’s always going to be somebody who gets offended and then we place the state government in the position of picking whose outrage is righteous and whose isn’t. The idea that “In God We Trust” is somehow offensive when it’s also on our money, or that the proceeds being raised go to a legal defense fund is “outrageous” is almost laughable. But it’s serious enough to get a state senator to take action on it.
The ADF has reportedly taken in roughly $900K from the sale of these plates over the past five years. The plates cost $25 and $17 of that goes to the organization. Given that their annual budget runs over $50 million, this is a relatively insignificant amount, or so it seems. But if this fight has to come to a conclusion, I hope that ADF manages to prevail. If we’re going to be having specialty plates like this raising money, their work is certainly as valid of a cause as most of the others being promoted in Arizona.