Americans United for Elimination of Church and Religion Separation of Church and State has done it again. The state of South Carolina unanimously passed legislation to produce a license plate with the words, “I Believe,” featured with a large cross and a stained glass window. Note this minor detail: the plate is optional; no one is forced to purchase it. Of course, AU omits this in its news release and the entire argument. A voluntary, optional license plate in a convoluted way, violates the First Amendment.
The Summers v. Adams lawsuit charges that the Christian plate gives preferential government treatment to one faith.
“The state has clearly given preferential treatment to Christianity with this license plate,” said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, Americans United executive director. “I can’t think of a more flagrant violation of the First Amendment’s promise of equal treatment for all faiths. I believe these plates will not see the light of day.”
The Americans United lawsuit says the Christian license plate violates the separation of church and state as well as freedom of speech. It notes that other religions will not be able to get similar license plates expressing differing viewpoints, nor can a comparable “I Don’t Believe” license plate be issued.
Not be able to get a similar plate? A contrasting, “I Don’t Believe,” can’t be issued? Where exactly does the Constitution indicate lawmakers must satisfy everyone, and simultaneously not offend anyone?
Clearly, Christianity was the preferred religion of the Founders. The Constitution they established did not need to mention Christianity or God. Their high esteem of Him is easily discovered by reading records of the Constitutional Convention. They founded a country that would welcome all religions to practice freely. But government was to encourage Christianity above all others.
If AU wants to get technical, the First Amendment was only intended to limit the scope to the Federal government. State governments were free to establish any religion they saw fit. Judicial precedent demonstrates this for over 150 years since the country’s beginning. It wasn’t until Chief Justice Hugo Black’s blunder in the 1947 Everson case, in which he systematically linked the Fourteenth Amendment (via a ruling from 1868 ) to the First Amendment (with a ruling from 1791). Funny thing is, that connection had always existed for 79 years prior with many, earlier courts and many Founders included, oblivious to such a connection.
Exit compromise: You can keep this if the state also offers a plate featuring an image of Hitchens, drunk, above the slogan, “Abandon all hope.”