July 25, 2008

First Amendment and License Plates

Posted in Offbeat tagged , , , at 12:19 am by Katharine Lackey

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

The First Amendment of the Constitution maintains the most fundamental principles held dearly in this country. And yet, it contains, within itself, a sort of contradiction. What do you do when the separation of church and state and the freedom of religious practice go against each other?

The legislature in South Carolina passed a bill that approved a Christian license plate design, which has a cross and the words ‘I believe.’ The governor hasn’t signed the bill into law just yet, but if he did, South Carolina would become the first state to offer a religious-themed plate.

This is causing quite a stir with talk of challenges from the ACLU and the American Jewish Congress.

‘’The whole issue here is that people are trying to get the state to endorse their religion, and that’s wrong,’’ Dr. T. Jeremey Gunn, director of the A.C.L.U. Program on Freedom of Religion and Belief, told The Times in June.

While license plates are protected by freedom of speech, they are also regulated in states to avoid profanities. However, even those laws aren’t clear cut with a number of plates without obscenities being disapproved. Vermont, at least, does not allow religious sentiments of any kind on its plates and disapproved a plate that reference a passage in the Bible.

I’m not sure about this one, myself. If South Carolina were to create a number of plates representing different and varying religions, then perhaps it woudl be okay as it wouldn’t seem that they were supporting one religion over another.

Even then, though, the law says “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion” (the Supreme Court ruled this can apply to states).

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1 Comment »

  1. i believe said,

    smaller version of plate acting as a refrigerator magnet on YouTube

    G rated


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