This week a US District judge ordered the South Carolina DMV to cease production and sales of license plates featuring an image of a cross in stained-glass under the heading, “I Believe.” The judge noted that federal courts would most likely rule the Christian plates a violation of the First Amendment as it clearly fails the litmus test concerning the advancement of religion as its primary effect.
The problem here seems to involve the process more than the plate itself. Many private groups throughout the country have specialty plates promoting a particular organization or cause. In South Carolina this includes fraternities, academic institutions, wildlife organizations and the Secular Humanists of the Lowcountry whose state license tag boasts “In Reason We Trust.” Yet none of these were originated by or within the state legislature. A non-profit group can create a specialty tag as long as 400 motorists are willing to purchase. The “I Believe” plates, on the other hand, began as a legislative act by 170 South Carolina lawmakers. Clearly, this was a miscalculated and unconstitutional move on their part.
But despite the judges cease and desist order, I doubt this is the end. In some form or another, Christian license plates will surely “Rise Again”—as many South Carolinians are fond of saying with all their Southern double-entendre. Identifying 400 willing motorists who want to boast their Christian witness will be about as easy as finding a Waffle House on I-20.
Then all the good Christians can display their faith for “unbelievers” to see. I am just curious about one thing. How many Christian license plates on the back of South Carolina vehicles will complement the Confederate flag affixed to the front? Hmmm….