In God Who Trusts?

There's much gnashing of teeth among the secular set these days, as South Carolina prepares to offer automobile license plates that declare "I Believe." Just in case other drivers don't get it, the specialty plates will also feature a cross, just as Florida's proposed and rejected plates would have. Is this a breach of the First Amendment, as a lawsuit filed by Americans United for Separation of Church and State claims? Or is it much ado about nothing? I can't get worked up ;;;; beyond blogging about it, of course.

South Carolina, like many other states, already offers a standard "In God We Trust" plate. One could argue that this sort of thing violates the establishment clause of the First Amendment, but one would be wasting one's time. The same thing's on American money, after all. Whether it actually does constitute a violation is no longer the point, and the phrase isn't going away.

Which is a shame, because, the way I see, it "In God We Trust" is more offensive than "I Believe." Think about it. The former assumes a collective shared trust in a supernatural entity. The latter only proclaims that the driver (or whoever registered the vehicle), holds a particular belief.

So go ahead, South Carolina. And Alabama. And whichever other states want to give their Christian drivers the satisfaction of knowing that every drop of gasoline they burn is helping spread the good news. I'd much rather be reminded that there are those who believe than be told that I do, too.

More like this

I believe this is a violation of the First Amendment!!!! South Carolina is always trying to enhance its reputation as a conservative crazy backwater that does things like elect Joe Wilsons to the congress and flies the Rebel Flag over its state house and stuff. Recently, the state legislature…
Now Phil is trying to kill me—he sent me this link with a knowing smirk, plainly telling me that he knew it would raise my blood pressure. People, think this stuff through: if I were found dead in my chair, one clawlike hand clutching my chest, my face in a rictus of agony, and there on the…
Marci Hamilton has an interesting column on Findlaw about whether the Establishment Clause is incorporated by the 14th amendment, which means whether it now applies to the states or not. The Supreme Court has long held that it does, but at least one justice, Clarence Thomas, argues that it does not…
From TfK's "Duh!" department, we learn via PZ that a federal judge did the only sensible thing possible about the National Day of Prayer. In a suit filed by the Freedom From Religion Foundation: A federal judge in Wisconsin ruled the National Day of Prayer unconstitutional Thursday, saying the day…

That's fine, but only if they also offer "I Believe" plates with Stars of David, sickle moons, Pentagrams etc.

The trouble with those "special" plates is that they usually cost quite a bit more, and the surcharge (aside from a couple of bucks for processing) is donated to the relevant cause. If a state wants to issue a plate that includes a religious or political statement, they'd damn well better issue it on the same basis as regular plates, with none of the proceeds channeled into partisan pockets.

But seriously, folks, what's the point? You can get license-plate frames with just about anything you want on them - not to mention bumper stickers, magnetic fish/dolphins/FSMs, etc.

As far as I can see, the supporters of the "I Believe" plates are just trying to get away with a sneaky way of saying, "Hey, look! My state agrees with me!" For that reason, I think it's a completely f*cked-up idea. You can quote me on that, and I'm a Baptist Preacher's Kid.

By themadlolscientist (not verified) on 23 Jun 2008 #permalink

I'm from SC, but I can't complain about this too much because the largest Secular Humanist org in the state got us our own license plate years ago.

So, is this the same issue as it was in FL where the state was sponsoring the plates and the proceeds were going to a religious cause? Because IIRC, that was the "big issue" over there, in addition to the plates only being available with a cross on them (ie not a Star of David or a FSM, etc)

I don't see this as different from wildlife plates. If the state wants a few extra bucks by charging extra for it, fine. It's not like the standard plate has a cross on it. In fact, i like the plain, no real message plate.

If these things are really stamped out in prisons, then New Hampshire's standard "live free or die" has got to be the worst.

"I believe" on a license plate would be fine if the cross were replaced with a thermometer, to show that the driver believes in Global Warming!