License Plate Lawsuit Brings Out the Ignorance

You knew that when South Carolina decided to issue Christian license plates that read “I Believe” (similar to the failed Florida license plate design seen below), a lawsuit would be coming:

i-believe.jpg

The lawsuit has been filed by Americans United for Separation of Church and State.

AU filed it on behalf of — get this — “four South Carolina clergy the Rev. Dr. Thomas A. Summers, Rabbi Sanford T. Marcus, the Rev. Dr. Robert M. Knight and the Rev. Dr. Neal Jones as well as the Hindu American Foundation.

The Summers v. Adams lawsuit charges that the Christian plate gives preferential government treatment to one faith. It asks the court to prevent South Carolina officials from producing the plates.”

That’s a beautiful roster of plaintiffs, no? :)

You can read the full lawsuit here (PDF).

So what sort of response would you expect?

Very positive ones from most people who… you know… have read the Constitution.

And very amusing ones from those who (presumably) haven’t.

Says AU’s Ilana Stern:

One opponent of our lawsuit asked if “Berry” (I’d assume he was attempting to reference Barry W. Lynn) is “a synonme” (perhaps he meant synonym) for “antichrist.” Another asked: “Are you again Christianity?” We here at AU are certainly neither again nor against Christianity; we believe in equal treatment for all faiths (and non-faiths) and we believe in safeguarding religious freedom.

We also received the regular slew of e-mails telling us to “Go to Hell” or “get a life.” But a bunch wanted to save us from the fiery underworld and included Bible quotes and offers to pray for the staff.

Most people were just angry. One correspondent condemned Lynn, likened him to a slayer of prophets, asserted that Barry’s soul was sold to unbelievers, questioned his personal faith and then signed his e-mail under the salutation “respectfully.” That was a nice touch.

Another favorite was an e-mail telling all of us at “the ACLU” that we are worthless jerks. This however, was not the only factual inaccuracy that found its way to my inbox. One rather agitated young man exclaimed: “I believe that North Carolina [sic] can put whatever they damn well want on their license plates and I believe that you are all a bunch of maggot sucking gutter trash scum.”…

But what was the best?

Of all the e-mails, I will leave you with my favorite: “Barry, you look demonic. I suppose you are one of the main reasons that the Ten Commandments were taken out of schools. Where you don’t see God you do see evil. You are one of the reasons that kids are killing kids in schools. You don’t have to answer to me but you will have to answer to God one day. Demon.”

That’s what’s known as a solid, rational, logical response…

Maybe churches should offer sermons on how to write hate mail. You know, bring in an English teacher, use those large screens to show proper grammar, explain what is and isn’t Constitutional.

Couldn’t hurt.


[tags]atheist, atheism, Christian[/tags]

  • Rob

    Here in Indiana we have “In God We Trust” license plates available. When I was getting my plates (the “environmental” kind, thankyouverymuch…), the man sitting next to me was asked by the clerk, “Would you like the regular Indiana plate, or the ‘In God We Trust’ plate?”

    He chose IGWT… I wonder what the nice little lady would have said to him had his answer been different.

  • TXatheist

    I remember when the local talk shows of Austin brought up this a few weeks ago and I called in to ask if they were going to also offer a plate that said “god is a myth” and the old very conservative xian tough guy host got annoyed. They can’t even fathom that being available. They cut me off after I got to ask the question and the remaining call was the old guy saying he’d pray for me.

  • Ian

    I don’t get it… the story is about South Carolina, but the licence plate in the picture says “Florida”. Are these plates in Florida, too?

  • http://friendlyatheist.com Hemant Mehta

    I don’t get it… the story is about South Carolina, but the licence plate in the picture says “Florida”. Are these plates in Florida, too?

    Ian — The FL license plate (seen in the image) did not make it through the legislature. They knew it would be illegal. However, SC just passed a very similar design. I edited the post to make this more clear.

  • Robin

    Here’s the thing…

    Lots of people have vanity licence plates. You know, the kind that have cute little messages and stuff on them. Here in Minnesota, August Berkshire has one that reads ATHEIST.

    August had to pay extra for the vanity plate. I don’t know how much extra he paid, but the additional fee probably went to something like highway maintenence.

    If the state wants to make expressly Chrisitan plates available, maybe they could design one for Jewish, Muslim, Jain, Hindu, atheist, and all manners of faith inbetween. And simply charge extra for them.

    What would an athiest’s licence plate look like?

  • http://www.bernerbits.com Derek

    What would an athiest’s licence plate look like?

    It would say, “way athier than you’ll ever be”.

  • Skylar

    Awwww…not all of South Carolina is that bad. Just most of it.

    However, in SC, they do have a Secular Humanists of the Low Country license plate. My ex used to have it. It’s simple, and most people don’t realize what it is (too bad). Just an American flag and “In Reason We Trust” in small type at the top.

    So the atheists got there first.

  • Darryl

    I saw Barry Lynn on Fox news today being “interviewed” about this subject by Laura Ingraham. I don’t know why he even goes on Fox. Ms. Ingraham did everything but call him a liar to his face, and judging from his expression, he was not happy. I have to give it to her, she has mastered the art of ridicule and scorn.

  • Richard Wade

    I’ll never understand why people want to identify themselves or what they’re about with either vanity plates or specialized plates and then leave their cars unattended in a public parking lot. It’s cheaper to just put a sign in the window: “I disagree with you. Please vandalize my car.”

  • Darryl

    Richard, I know enough to know that in my neighborhood you don’t put nothin’ on your car. Holy Crap! If I put anything like “Bush Lied,” or “Impeach Bush,” or even “Stop the War,” I’d be vandalized for sure. If I was a bad ass and mean mo’ fo’ like a lot of the guys that drive huge trucks (4×4), work with their hands, and just love to woop-up on pale, scholarly liberals, I’d put something provocative on my car and conceal myself until some poor idiot decided to mess with my car, then I’d jump up and beat his ass, all the while repeating “It’s not nice to mistreat strangers like that!”

  • Stephanie

    I think the worst problem with this is that it could lead to preferential treatment by the SCHP. Has this been addressed anywhere?

  • Darryl

    I think the worst problem with this is that it could lead to preferential treatment by the SCHP. Has this been addressed anywhere?

    Imagine all the ways you could discriminate with these plates: discounts at the car wash if you have a Christian plate, free roadside assistance if you have it, discounts at the drive through window, etc. Perhaps the state will start issuing optional driver’s licenses that have crosses on them so that your identification will be another way to get preferential treatment.

    This all sounds petty, but this is how prejudice and stupidity survive, by blending into the culture, the fabric of life, in the little things.

  • I like tea

    I believe that North Carolina [sic] can put whatever they damn well want on their license plates

    I’ll bet ten bucks he wouldn’t be believing that if we were talking about Muslim license plates.

  • OllieGarkey

    I am SO glad to see Christians as well as people of other faiths opposing the union of Church and State. Makes me happy to see freedom defended by people with “Rev” in front of their names.


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