Rhode Island Governor Vetoes ‘Choose Life’ License Plate

If you’re looking to get a personalized license plate design in Rhode Island, there are a number of charities you could benefit: veterans, firefighters, groups fighting breast cancer, etc.

Until recently, though, no religious group ever received money.

Thanks to Governor Lincoln Chafee, it’s going to stay that way.

Yesterday, Chafee vetoed legislation that would have authorized a “Choose Life” plate design with some of the proceeds benefitting CareNet, a Christian anti-abortion crisis center with a mission to “share the love and truth of Jesus Christ.”

In his veto message, Chafee wrote: “This bill compels the state to collect and distribute funds to an organization that advocates a particular religious and political viewpoint. It is my belief that state participation in the transmission of funds to this organization would violate the separation of church and state, one of the fundamental principles upon which our state was founded.

While religious groups are complaining that he’s stifling their free speech (which is crazy, since they’re welcome to put pro-life bumper stickers on their cars or donate to the Christian groups directly), Chafee’s consistent on the matter — it’s not like there are pro-choice or non-Christian plates available for purchase.

As any government official who has seen religious free-for-alls during the December holidays can attest, it’s just easier to say no to all religious and non-religious groups than to open the floodgates for everyone.

Chafee may have served on the NARAL Pro-Choice America board of directors in the past, but this decision was the right one regardless of his personal politics.

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the chair of Foundation Beyond Belief and a high school math teacher in the suburbs of Chicago. He began writing the Friendly Atheist blog in 2006. His latest book is called The Young Atheist's Survival Guide.

  • C Peterson

    It seems to me there are plenty of “non-Christian” plates available. All of them. What there aren’t are anti-Christian plates.

    • katarn

      I think he meant non-christian religious plates.

      • C Peterson

        Ah. Perhaps.

  • Art_Vandelay

    If you think you might be pregnant and aren’t sure what to do, we are
    here for you. We can help you understand all your options and possible
    next steps. No pressure, no judgment, just the support of a professional
    staff of women who know what you are going through.

    Yeah…I’m gonna have to go out on a limb and call bullshit on that.

    • Miss_Beara

      I think you are correct to do so.

    • allein

      No asterisk after the word “options”?

      *except that one…

    • joe

      All of your options*

      *options only include what we tell you are options, everything else is wrong.

  • 3lemenope

    Roe Dylin, eff yeah!

  • Gus Snarp

    I don’t know how this will fare in court, should the conservatives take it there. I think he’s on pretty firm footing, but one never knows with courts these days. But I hope that if the state were to lose they would do the sensible thing and eliminate all the special tags, rather than allowing this one.

    • 3lemenope

      If he vetoed it, it’s a done deal; there’s nothing for a court to do.

      • Gus Snarp

        So an anti-choice group cannot sue the state for this? It seems like the religious right has a stunning ability to find things to sue over.

        Is the legal rational related to a recent case I remember hearing in which a court wouldn’t hear a case due to a lack of any standing to challenge an executive action?

        • 3lemenope

          It’s even simpler than that. There is absolutely no legal restriction on an executive’s use of the veto power so long as it is used as intended to cancel a passed bill in full instead of signing it into law; they can veto a bill because they don’t like it’s contents, because they think the legislature can do better, because they don’t like the color the bill is printed on, etc.. Courts have no power to review a properly executed veto.

          Usually the power to overturn a veto is vested in a legislature, who in order to overturn must meet a high vote threshold (usually 2/3rds of the body must be in favor). This is the case in Rhode Island.

          • Bill Santagata

            A 3/5 majority is required in Rhode Island to overturn a veto and it did not pass with a veto-proof majority in the House so no veto-override vote is expected to be held on this.

            I suppose that if the Christian right has a spare bank account they feel like emptying, they can sue the state saying their right to free speech is being denied because the state isn’t giving them this plate (they’re already saying this in their rants). The idea is ridiculous however: you have the right to put a bumper sticker on your car without fear of government reprisal. You do not have the right to demand that the government broadcast your speech for you by creating special products for you.

        • UWIR

          One can sue to have a law declared unconstitutional. It’s more difficult to sue to have the absence of a law declared unconstitutional. The best avenue this group has would be to sue to have the existing law, that allows special license plates but apparently does not allow special Christian license plates, declared unconstitutional, forcing the state to choose between eliminating special license plates entirely, or allow Christian ones.

  • http://www.holytape.etsy.com Holytape

    Personally, I don’t understand why Christians would want to buy a license plate which is clearly supporting Itzamna, the Mayan two-headed sun god who chose to give life to the first people. It just doesn’t make any sense.

    • Michael W Busch

      Tangential: Did Itzamna really have two heads? I didn’t find that in a cursory review of Mayan mythology (although there was the two-headed Vision Serpent motif common in bloodletting ceremonies and described as a connection between reality and the spirit realm).

  • Sven2547

    I’ve always thought “choose life” was an odd slogan for a movement that wants to take the choice away…

    • Tel

      Indeed. If abortion is not legal, then I am completely unable to choose to not abort my hypothetical foetus; I can’t choose life.

    • Tainda

      I agree and I would like to provide a more appropriate slogan for them that better reflects their views…

      “Your womb belongs to us, bitches!”

      • Luke

        I think an even more appropriate slogan would be:

        “All your wombs are belong to us”

        It also reflects the proper grammar that theists often employ.

        • Tainda

          I’m a gamer so that’s sacrilegious ;)

          • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

            Seriously. It would be “All your womb are belong to us”.

            The grammar wasn’t wrong enough.

            • baal

              It would be “All your WOMB are belong to US”.

              You need some extra caps too.

              • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

                True, true.

      • Jim Jones

        Force Birth

    • Michael

      I have nothing to add but…

      Choose life. Choose a job. Choose a career. Choose a family. Choose a fucking big television, Choose washing machines, cars, compact disc players, and electrical tin can openers. Choose good health, low cholesterol and dental insurance. Choose fixed-interest mortgage repayments. Choose a starter home. Choose your friends. Choose leisure wear and matching luggage. Choose a three piece suit on hire purchase in a range of fucking fabrics. Choose DIY and wondering who the fuck you are on a Sunday morning. Choose sitting on that couch watching mind-numbing spirit-crushing game shows, stuffing fucking junk food into your mouth. Choose rotting away at the end of it all, pissing your last in a miserable home, nothing more than an embarrassment to the selfish, fucked-up brats you have spawned to replace yourself. Choose your future. Choose life . . . But why would I want to do a thing like that? I chose not to choose life: I chose something else. And the reasons? There are no reasons. Who needs reasons when you’ve got heroin?

      Ahh, Trainspotting…

    • Nancy Shrew

      You can also choose adoption!!!*

      *to a nice white Christian family.

      • Jim Jones
      • fiona64

        Yep. The vast majority of so-called “crisis pregnancy centers” have ties to Christian-based adoption mills … where in the ‘right kind of women’ are encouraged to gestate and surrender their infants to the ‘right kind of families.’ Where ‘the right kind’ means exactly what you said, of course.

    • Hat Stealer

      “Forced-birther” more accurately sums up what they represent I think.

    • http://ourgirlsclub.blogspot.com/ Ginny Bain Allen

      Actually, it would be more accurate for pro-lifers to say “Embrace Life” for the choice that created it has already been made. Pro-deathers are the ones who remove any choice for the unborn child, the one they view as the enemy of their narcissism. Abortion is definitely not safe for the unborn. It usually ends in death, that’s the intention anyway. If not death, Cerebral Palsy or some other abortion-inducing injury that will last that child’s entire life! Neither is abortion rare. Over 55 million of us, in the U.S. alone, have died due to abortion.

      • Sven2547

        Pro-deathers

        By using this term, you illustrate that you have no idea what the debate is about.
        Tell me, when a woman chooses to keep her baby, do you think the so-called “pro-deathers” object to this in any way?

        for the choice that created it has already been made

        Except for all those times when it’s not. But hey, nuance and facts are for heretics and liberals anyway, right?

        • fiona64

          Exactly. Ginny seems to be unable to comprehend that being pro-choice embraces *all* choices: contraception use or non-use, gestation or termination, adoption or rearing a child alone or with a partner of one’s choice.

          Ginny is part of the “no-choice” camp, in which any woman who has had an abortion is a worthless tramp unless she “repents of her sin” and (perhaps like Ginny’s daughter, who writes for LieSiteNews) dines out on being an anti-choicer who got to choose and now wants to deny others the same right.

      • fiona64

        You know, I’m sure that if you just exerted a little effort, you could put in more histrionics.

        Cerebral palsy is caused by prenatal myelination problems, not by attempted abortion. You are being intellectually dishonest at a minimum.

  • eric

    While religious groups are complaining that he’s stifling their free speech (which is crazy, since they’re welcome to put pro-life bumper stickers on their cars or donate to the Christian groups directly)

    They could also pretty easily set up a secular non-profit corporation to receive the proceeds, or take no proceeds at all. Imagine that (gasp!), promoting your Christian cause without expecting the government to pay you for your efforts!

    Every state is different. It sounds lke this was a right call for R.I. in that it’s consistent with prior decisions about license plates being limited to specific types of groups. But in other states where basically any group (religious or not) is allowed to create a license plate so long as they get a certain number of takers, I would defend this group’s right to ‘speak’ via the same forum others are allowed to use.

  • Sanguinocrat

    Christians genuinely frighten me. I guess they have frightened people for millenia.

  • SeekerLancer

    Oh no, now if people in Rhode Island want to let the person behind them in traffic know what their opinions are they’ll have to buy a bumper sticker. How awful.

    • allein

      There is a van I see fairly frequently on my way to work that has a bunch of bumper stickers on the back, including an anti-abortion one and a pro-gun sticker (“Fight Crime, Shoot Back”). I know it’s consistent with their world view but the combination always makes me do a little head tilt.

      Also the obligatory “NoBama” and a few others. The van is plain white with a red rectangle on the side, and it took me a while to manage to read what was written in that rectangle (due to where it’s always parked I have to pay too much attention to not hitting it as I turn that I’m usually past it before I would be able to try to read it). Recently I finally managed to catch what it says: “Middlesex County Tea Party”

  • EighthDoctor

    Considering that Rhode Island was founded by all of the religious people* that the Puritans drove out of Massachusetts, Chafee is very correct in naming non-partisan governance as a founding principle. Here in Newport, we have the oldest surviving Quaker meetinghouse, Jewish synagogue, Baptist church, and tavern! (Which should tell you about our priorities.) Yay, Little Rhody!

    *and a fuckton of pirates

  • Confused

    Well how nice of the Governor of Rhode Island. But considering the fact that there are a bunch of other states that have already approved and are issuing “Choose Life” plates what difference is it going to make. So is the FFRF or some other organization going to now be filing lawsuits in all those other states to get this banned or what.

    • allein

      If those states allow plates from other groups in the same “genre” (so to speak) they would have no reason to. If the only religiously affiliated (including specifically non-religious) group allowed to have a plate is a Christian group, they would have a legitimate argument.

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