Indiana’s “In God We Trust” License Plates

In Indiana last year, a law was passed that allowed the Bureau of Motor Vehicles to issue license plates that were stamped with the label “In God We Trust.”

InGodLicensePlate

The law was passed by a vote of 134-2.

Now, that label alone isn’t a problem.

If people want to purchase that specialty plate, with the usual specialty plate cost of $40/year, it is entirely their right to do so.

The problem here is that there is no extra fee added for these plates.

That is likely a state/church violation and the Indiana ACLU is on top of it (PDFs).

There’s also another problem with this:

Indiana has squandered $15 million in administrative costs. And this is the state that had to sell its toll road to make ends meet.

By not charging per plate, Indiana is essentially giving Christians a government-sponsored way to display their faith. Other religions’ followers are not given this opportunity.

You can read more at NoFreeGodPlate.org, a website that further explains the problem.

Better yet, they are collecting pictures of “In God We Trust” cars behaving badly.

Like this one, situated just outside a strip club

ClubRio

Apparently, there are similar photos just waiting to be taken.

The site was started by Craig Shoemaker and Terre Haute Tribune-Star columnist Stephanie Salter.

You can hear more of the story behind this law and the website on the Freedom From Religion Foundation’s Freethought Radio (mp3; start at the 27:05 mark).


[tags]atheist, atheism, FFRF[/tags]

  • Richard Wade

    So if an Indiana resident could get an “In God We Trust” plate and add their special plate letters such as “ATHEIST” or “NOT!” or “HOT BABE” or… you know people could have some fun with this until it all gets thrown out.

  • JeffN

    just outside a strip club…

    Am i surprised? no. Am i saddened? Yes.

    For to many people Christianity has become little more than a God club or low priced country club. Either believe it or Don’t but get off the fence. ;)

  • http://atheistrevolution.blogspot.com/ vjack

    So this is not the standard plate that everyone gets but a new option that is being provided to those who request it at no charge? This will become the new Jesus fish for Indiana drivers.

  • Mriana

    That is so bad on many levels- including the pics of those who have them.

    So, um… The next time Christians say they are morally superior because they believe in God/Jesus, may I use these pics as a visual aide to drive my point in that their statement is simply not true?

  • Jen

    He’s not looking at the dancer’s body, he giving her college tuition.

  • Gary Charbonneau

    So this is not the standard plate that everyone gets but a new option that is being provided to those who request it at no charge? This will become the new Jesus fish for Indiana drivers.

    It already has. Anecdotally, I’d say that about a fourth of the cars in the state now have this plate.

  • Gary Charbonneau

    That is likely a state/church violation and the Indiana ACLU is on top of it

    The ACLU hasn’t got a prayer….

  • Gary Charbonneau

    That is likely a state/church violation and the Indiana ACLU is on top of it

    The ACLU hasn’t got a prayer

    But then again … the ACLU is basing its case, not on anything in the U.S. Constitution, but on the Indiana constitution, Article I, Sec. 23: “The General Assembly shall not grant to any citizen, or class of citizens, privileges or immunities, which, upon the same terms, shall not equally belong to all citizens.” Legally it is not a “church/state” issue, but an “equal privileges and immunities” issue.

    Of course an atheist would be able to obtain an “in God We Trust” plate at the same cost as anyone else, so….

  • Siamang

    Well, it is the national motto, after all.

  • http://reasonableatheist.blogspot.com Bart

    Arkansas has one of these plates as well. I wrote about it on my blog here.
    http://reasonableatheist.blogspot.com/2007/11/in-god-we-trust-license-plate-but-it.html

    One of the objections I have about the plate is that it really set up to fund meals for elderly people, but mentions nothing about this on the plate.

    Another problem I have with it is that it shows a picture of the arkansas state capitol building, which seems to indicate “state == in god we trust”

    I sure wish “In God We Trust” could be shown to be a 1st amendment violation like I believe it is, and we could get it removed from all government issued things, especially off the money, but I guess it’s probably a pipe dream for now.

  • http://blog.infeasible.net/ Godless Geek

    Alabama has one now inspired by the Indiana one. Our’s says “God Bless America” and has been out about a year now. It’s “optional,” but they try hard to push it on you when you renew. I’d guesstimate that about 75% of the non-specialty plates now are this one.

    Here’s a link with a picture of the plate.

  • http://www.masala-skeptic.com Masala Skeptic

    Godless Geek – I was in AL this weekend and saw that plate and asked the same question about whether it was a church/state violation to sell those.

  • Gary Charbonneau

    I was in AL this weekend and saw that plate and asked the same question about whether it was a church/state violation to sell those.

    If by “a church state violation” you mean “unconstitutional,” I think that the answer is “no.”

  • Scotty B

    You can read more at NoGodFreePlate.org, a website that further explains the problem.

    Don’t you mean NoFreeGodPlate.org?

  • http://friendlyatheist.com Hemant

    Don’t you mean NoFreeGodPlate.org?

    Whoops! How did that happen…?

    All fixed now.

    Thanks for catching it, Scotty :)

  • http://www.jaredmlee.net jared

    I can say this as a believer. 95% of the people who choose that license plate are not really Christians, they are just republicans who think being a good American makes them a Christian.

  • Gary Charbonneau

    I can say this as a believer. 95% of the people who choose that license plate are not really Christians, they are just republicans who think being a good American makes them a Christian.

    Or they may be Republicans who think that you need to be a Christian to be a good American.

    The legislation to putto the motto on the plate was authored by Republican state representative Woody Burton of Greenwood. He is the brother of conservative Republican representative (U.S. Congress) Dan Burton.

    According to an announcement by Woody Burton last August, over one million “In God We Trust” plates had been issued as of Jan. 1, 2007.

  • Mriana

    According to an announcement by Woody Burton last August, over one million “In God We Trust” plates had been issued as of Jan. 1, 2007.

    Oh please! If so, why haven’t I seen any of them yet?

  • Richard Wade

    (They) are not really Christians, they are just republicans who think being a good American makes them a Christian.

    Or they may be Republicans who think that you need to be a Christian to be a good American.

    Or they may be Christians who think that being a Republican makes them a good American, or they may be Christians who think that being an American makes them a good Republican, or they may be Americans who think that being a Christian makes them a good Republican, or they may be Americans who think that being a Republican makes them a good Christian.

    That covers the six possible combinations of those three categories.

    But if you consider jared’s suggestion that there is such a thing as a false Christian then it follows that some could be false Republicans and false Americans as well. Making one of the categories false adds another six possible combinations. Making two of the categories false adds another six possible combinations, and making all three categories false adds another six possible combinations, bringing the grand total of possible combinations to twenty-four. I think.

    Then there’s the possibility that some are Jews or Muslims or Hindus or whatnot instead of true or false Christians who want the “In God We Trust” licenses, and there could be some who are Democrats or Independents or Nazis or whatnot instead of true or false Republicans, and there could be some who are Canadians or Mexicans or Lithuanians or whatnot instead of true or false Americans. Then any or all of those could be the false versions.

    The possibilities are staggering. I’m going to stagger back to the kitchen for another cup of coffee.

  • Gary Charbonneau

    Or they may be Christians who think that being a Republican makes them a good American, or they may be Christians who think that being an American makes them a good Republican, or they may be Americans who think that being a Christian makes them a good Republican, or they may be Americans who think that being a Republican makes them a good Christian….

    The possibilities are staggering. I’m going to stagger back to the kitchen for another cup of coffee.

    I suppose that some of them could even be Democrats. However, this seems to be largely a Republican initiative, even though the proposal for the “In God We Trust” plates originally came from a nominally non-partisan group called “Advance America.” “Advance America” claims to be Indiana’s “largest pro-family, pro-church, pro-private and home school, and pro-tax reform organization.”

    When the design for the IGWT plate was unveiled, state representative Woody Burton, who sponsored the bill for the plate, declared,

    Seeing the ‘In God We Trust’ license plate come to life is a momentous occasion for everyone involved. The symbolism portrayed by the American Flag displays our loyalty to the United States and the words of our founding fathers. It is my hope that thousands of Hoosiers will choose this plate and display it proudly.

    Earlier, Burton had been quoted as saying that

    … judges are chipping away at the Judeo-Christian foundations of America. And he thought his “In God We Trust” license plate idea would give drivers a chance to express that concern, too….

  • Richard Wade

    Americans are unique in that more than by any other media they express their most cherished beliefs on the ass end of their cars.

  • http://www.jaredmlee.net jared

    Seeing the ‘In God We Trust’ license plate come to life is a momentous occasion for everyone involved. The symbolism portrayed by the American Flag displays our loyalty to the United States and the words of our founding fathers. It is my hope that thousands of Hoosiers will choose this plate and display it proudly.

    what an idiot. does he know the “founders” started using the phrase “in god we trust” during the cold war?

    Yes I am an angry Christian. It is this “American Christianity” that has hurt the church more than anything since the inquisition.

  • Gary Charbonneau

    what an idiot. does he know the “founders” started using the phrase “in god we trust” during the cold war?

    It actually began appearing on the currency during the Civil War, but that was still long after all the “founders” were dead. It officially became the national motto in 1956. “E pluribus unum” had been a de facto motto up until then, although one never officially declared to be so in law by act of Congress.

    I don’t know if he’s an idiot. He may be a political genius. Uneducated, perhaps — his “advanced degree” is from the Reppart School of Auctioneering.

    Yes I am an angry Christian. It is this “American Christianity” that has hurt the church more than anything since the inquisition

    Drop Mr. Burton a line at h58@IN.gov and let him know what you think. Of course if you’re not a constituent, he may not care what you think.

  • Paul H

    Since license plates are nothing BUT a government identification, then any religious monikers should definitely be considered a First Amendment violation, and done away with immediately. Those who want the IGWT tags should pay the full price, while those who only want standard tags be given those at the usual lower cost.

    I’m quite offended at this McCarthyism gone mad syndrome we’re currently into in this country. These religious knuckleheads need to sell their homes and possessions, and totally move into their chosen churches, and stay there. Hopefully there will be enough Kool-Aid for all of them to have seconds. Where’s Jim Jones when we need him ?

    These MORONS don’t seem to remember Matthew 6: 5-6 from their own bibles. They want to shout religion from every high point, shove it in everyone’s faces, and cram it down everyone’s throats. Yet their main man tells them, in so many words, to keep it to themselves for themselves. A hypocrite by any other name, would not be.

    I don’t call it “American Christianity”, I call it The New Theo-Fascism, Theo-Naziism, or Churchianity. Let us never forget the words of Sinclair Lewis.

  • http://www.SecularDignity.net Secular Dignity

    I know I am coming to this late, but: I live in Chicago, Illinois, and I see these plate all the time.

  • kevin

    “In God We Trust” can also relate to the Jews and Muslims not just Christians. Jews and Muslims ALSO believe in one God.

    Besides it certainly a lot better looking than our other regular issue plate, which is very, very boring looking.

  • http://passingjudgement.com ACLU lost round 1

    I’d give an extra $1 to be assigned letters IM and numbers 4666.

    They didn’t nix the “666″ plates from pool, which I think is hilarious. I’ve seen a few out and about, but not yet have I seen the IM 4666.

    Also, you can decorate your plate however you wish so long as it does not obstruct the plate number, expiration, or other tags. You could make a nice little sticker (the plates no worky with magnets) to cover up that little IGWT if you don’t like it. If you do, I’d suggest you don’t park it in the Wal*Mart parking lot.

  • Elderbob

    How sad this whole story is to me. One one side, the atheists, even the friendly one here, (hello, Sir. My name is Bob, by the way, but more of that later) is offended by the possibility of church and state linking together to promote, and display on a government medallion, an entity that bears proof of existence, not to mention relevance in world culture. Oh yeah, most importantly, I suppose, is the “entity plate” being subsidized by all taxpayers, God-fearin’ or otherwise. And the third thing that makes me see both sides of this; God is reduced to only serving, and being the great God of this nation because of a license plate that says “In God we trust.” I do believe in God, but I realize that a license plate only limits him. I know some people that see God in the woods, in the night sky, and in the eyes of their newborn daughters. They also think “In God We Trust” has turned from motto to weapon. “I’ll show these danged atheists, I’ll get one of them God plates. Jesus said to be fishers of men, not HUNTERS! We come to the truth in our own time and place/or not, but it is based upon love taught by example, not by forced down our throats.
    Bob

    “It is clear to me that the enemy of Christianity are the Christians.”

  • boB

    Nowhere in any document is the phrase “seperation of church and state” This is a fictional statement. Our founding fathers just did not want the government tell us which religion we had to subscribe to. All of the founding fathers were men of faith and feared God. Those who dont fear God are doomed.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1257775204 Robert C. Harding

      Bob, you couldn’t be more wrong if you tried. You obviously have never formally studied the writings of Jefferson, Adams, Franklin, and the rest. They were at best deists (non-Christians believe in a higher power, but not “God”) or downright atheists. You supposition is obviously based on a Fox News reading of political history.

  • alex

    boB: Those who dont fear God are doomed

    Bob, this is precisely the kind of self-righteous rhetoric that turns people away from church and Christianity. I am pretty certain of that because I know such people, myself among them. I am aware that it (probably) comes from the Bible itself, but that doesn’t make it any better.

    On the topic, though… Is anybody petitioning for FSM license plates? :)


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