April 25, 2008
Florida Considers Christian-themed License Plate
Precedent could allow for Church of Satan design, too
This might seem like a good idea, but ...
Florida drivers can order more than 100 specialty license plates celebrating everything from manatees to the Miami Heat, but one now under consideration would be the first in the nation to explicitly promote a specific religion.
The Florida Legislature is considering a specialty plate with a design that includes a Christian cross, a stained-glass window and the words "I Believe."
Rep. Edward Bullard, the plate's sponsor, said people who "believe in their college or university" or "believe in their football team" already have license plates they can buy. The new design is a chance for others to put a tag on their cars with "something they believe in," he said.
If the plate is approved, Florida would become the first state to have a license plate featuring a religious symbol that's not part of a college logo. Approval would almost certainly face a court challenge.
This story from the AP is what I like to call religious-controversy in a can. There is an exact formula to reporting these kneejerkers out. Introduce the "major news" (these are CNN standards), followed by a supportive quote about how Christians just want equal rights and then the contrarion view from Americans United, the ACLU or Michael Newdow. My vote's for contestant No. 2:
The problem with the state manufacturing the plate is that it "sends a message that Florida is essentially a Christian state" and, second, gives the "appearance that the state is endorsing a particular religious preference," said Howard Simon, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida.
Personally, I think the license plate is completely camp but have no constitutional qualms with it ... if the Florida DMV offers other religious variants. As my colleague pointed out with this satirical plate, I don't think Christians would be too thrilled if Satanists got their own design.
This article was cross-posted, with art, at The God Blog.