November 12, 2009

Christian license plate outlawed in South Carolina

by David Masters

Christian motorists in South Carolina will not be allowed to adorn their license plates with the slogan ‘I believe’, a federal judge has ruled.

US District Judge Cameron Currie said the customised license plates, which feature a golden cross in front of a stained-glass window, violate the First Amendment, which enshrines separation between church and state.

Currie also ruled that the plate shows preferential treatment to a single faith by the government.

“Whether motivated by sincerely held Christian beliefs or an effort to purchase political capital with religious coin, the result is the same,” she said.

“The statute is clearly unconstitutional and defence of its implementation has embroiled the state in unnecessary (and expensive) litigation.”

Legislation allowing the Christian license plates was passed in South Carolina in 2008 on the grounds of free speech.

Lt Governor Andre Bauer, who supported the legislation, said it was “ridiculous” not to include a Christian license place in the state’s list of over 100 speciality vehicle plates.

Commenting on Currie’s ruling, Bauer said the judge had “clearly” discriminated against persons of faith.

However, Americans United for Separation of Church and State, who took the license plate issue to court, said the ruling was “great news”.

“Some officials seem to want to use religion as a political football…. That’s an appalling misuse of governmental authority, and I am thrilled that the judge put a stop to it,” an Americans United spokesperson said.

Some 400 motorists in South Carolina had pre-ordered the Christian license plate.

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