Friday, November 21, 2008

in god we trust, except when we don't

the indy star ed board chimes in regarding the "be gods" license plate fiasco:

The Bureau of Motor Vehicles rejected Ferris' application to reserve the plate this year under a new policy that bans any references to religion. While the agency, in the face of protests and litigation, backed off on her case and those of a few others who got in ahead of the change, the policy will stand.

That's a peculiar position for an agency that has issued about 2 million "In God We Trust" license plates to Hoosiers in recent years, a policy the state has successfully defended in court.

Despite that obvious inconsistency, Indiana officials now appear headed to court to defend their denial of individual expression of faith. The Alliance Defense Fund, a religious liberty advocacy organization representing Ferris, plans to continue with the lawsuit. The state should end the matter -- by dropping the policy.

this isn't exactly a new story—i've been writing about it since tuesday—but they make their editorial marginally relevant by adding in one new fact at the end: that the lawsuit against the bmv will continue, despite the agency's attempt to appease.

the policy deserves to be challenged, for it frankly makes no sense that the bmv will give you a license plate for free that says "in god we trust", but won't let you add your own god-themed message even if you pay them. so i'm pleasantly surprised that the lawsuit won't be dropped—but i won't be completely satisfied until either the IGWT plates go away or i'm allowed to get a NO GOD vanity plate (not that i'd actually get one; i just want the option), or an "in god we trust plate" where the number is NOT ME.

from there, the star's editorial makes a left turn to talk briefly about southport's charles lynch. for more background on that case, i give you doug masson:

First, we have a guy in Southport refusing to act in an orderly fashion at a City Council meeting as a way to protest the lack of prayer to open City Council meetings. By way of protest, he started praying out loud during a moment of silence; he was asked to be quiet; he started talking louder; he was asked to leave; he refused; he was escorted out; he grabbed a chair. He was arrested. Let's be clear, he was not arrested for praying. Had he prayed silently or been quiet when asked or left when asked, there would have been no arrest. It was his insistence on disrupting the meeting that led to his arrest.

lynch deliberately made an ass of himself in a decidedly unchristianlike manner, and was rightfully arrested for it. but don't expect the star ed board to chastise him for it: these are the same people who made no presidential endorsement this year because they just couldn't bring themselves to endorse a black democrat for president. here's what they had to say about lynch:

Lynch's behavior was clearly unacceptable -- according to a police report, he disrupted the meeting and then resisted an officer's efforts to remove him from the meeting room. But the fact that Southport officials have allowed this issue to fester for nearly a year and rise to such a level of contention indicates a failure of leadership on all sides.

yes, according to the star ed board, it's the fault of the southport city council that charles lynch decided to disrupt their meeting. after all, they're the ones who made him angry by eliminating ostentatious prayer from their meetings. and it was their failure of leadership that allowed the issue to fester by... well, i'm not sure what they were supposed to have done. (probably they shouldn't have gotten the rid of the prayer in the first place; nothing else would satisfy religion-on-my-sleeve types like lynch.)

1 comment:

Paul K. Ogden said...

I don't think there is any question that the BMV policy that prevents someone from picking the letters that make the phrase "BE GODS" is unconstitutional. Under the Free Exercise of Religion Clause government MUST allow an individual's expression of religious faith even in the public arena. An individual picking "BE GODS" for a state license plate isn't OVERNMENT endorsement or promotion of religion to bring it in violation of the Establishment Clause.

The "In God We Trust" plates, a design by government, is much, much closer to a violation of the Establishment Clause than allowing an individual to pick a certain combination of letters that might have religious signficance.

It is mystifying to me that apparently there are some attorneys out there found the BMV policy to pass constitutional muster but then found nothing wrong with the IGWT plates. Those attorneys must have slept through constitutional law in law school.

I wrote about these religion cases on my blog: