GA Bill Makes Religious License Plates Mandatory

GA Bill Makes Religious License Plates Mandatory December 5, 2011

Many states allow people to buy license plates that say “In God We Trust” on them, but a Georgia bill would make those plates mandatory — but you can pay extra to cover it up. The Secular News Daily reports:

A new bill pre-filed in the Georgia General Assembly this month would not only allow drivers to obtain license plates reading “In God We Trust,” but would in fact require them on all vehicles – unless drivers pay to cover it up. Georgia SB 293 would amend current law to mandate that, starting next summer, all plates would be imprinted with the religious declaration. If someone does not wish to exhibit this statement of faith, they would be required to purchase a sticker from the state displaying the name of their county that could be used to cover “In God We Trust.”

The bill text currently available on the legislature’s website really drives home the dramatic change in attitudes by the Assembly, as you can clearly see what has been crossed out and changed. While displaying the county name is the current “default” choice for Georgia drivers and alternatively they may purchase an “In God We Trust” sticker, this bill would directly swap the two, making the religious motto the routine option.

Mandating that individuals pay money to the government in order to not flaunt religious views is absolutely ridiculous. As the website Georgia Politico aptly puts it, “In other words, if you feel the government should not be establishing a religion, you are going to have to pay to prove it.”

Isn’t that what they make bumper stickers for?

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  • Georgia: Striving mightily to be the new Mississippi.

  • anandine

    I’ll bet duct tape works as well as a state-issued sticker.

    Especially if applied to the mouth of a legislator about to vote yes on such an abomination.

  • TX_secular

    Is there any way for non-GA residents to take collective action to discourage this legislatiion?

  • But… but… the First Amendment… and… mwehh… the stupid it hurts!

  • johnfromberkeley

    Sounds like an opportunity for harassment, too.

    If you have one of those stickers, anyone, police or otherwise could decide that you’re not worthy of your civil rights because, well, you’ve rejected Jesus.

    It’s the opposite of a Jewish star. In this case, everyone has the star, and those who choose to reject it, stand out like a sore thumb.

  • Doug Little

    Don’t they have better things they could be working on? I’m sure everything must be running extremely smoothly in GA for the legislators to be working (if that’s the correct term) on this type of thing.

  • eric

    If someone does not wish to exhibit this statement of faith, they would be required to purchase a sticker from the state displaying the name of their county that could be used to cover “In God We Trust.”

    Why only that or the name of the county?

    What if I want a sticker that replaces “God” with some other term? Say, “Satan,” “Zeus,” “Jimmy Buffet,” or “Capitalism.”

    Christian or nothing is not really a wide choice. Its certainly not free exercise.

  • Sqrat

    But… but… the First Amendment… and… mwehh… the stupid it hurts!

    The First Amendment says, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion.” “In God We Trust” is the national motto of the United States, by act of Congress. So long as the constitutionality of the IGWT federal statute is upheld, it’s going to be tough to make the constitutional case that Georgia can’t put it on its license plates.

  • It’s off topic, but i thought I’s share the breaking news over at Fox Business where it’s been determined that the Muppets are commies out to destroy capitalism.

    http://www.screened.com/news/thing-that-actually-happened-fox-business-analyst-calls-the-muppets-communists/3201/

  • chaosof99

    So long as the constitutionality of the IGWT federal statute is upheld, it’s going to be tough to make the constitutional case that Georgia can’t put it on its license plates.

    There’s already been such a case. Wooley v. Maynard. Came across that quite by coincidence because for a reason I no longer remember I looked up “Live free or die” on wikipedia.

    Anyway, it’s unconstitutional to force people to display an opinion or sentiment against their will. The Wooley v. Maynard case is already a Supreme Court precedent for this, and also pertains to slogans on license plates.

    Of course, the sticker thing is Georgia weaseling out of it, but the charge for the sticker is ridiculous and also unconstitutional. The license plate itself, as well as this motto, is of course unconstitutional as well.

  • voss

    It appears this case may present an opportunity. One could cover up the religious wording with duct tape and then if one were cited by the police for this and pleaded not guilty, perhaps the ACLU would become interested.

  • timberwoof

    This poll needs to be Pharynguated!

    http://eastcobb.patch.com/articles/poll-in-god-we-trust-standard-cb0ed28e

    Yes. It’s our national motto and is based on the country’s Christian roots.

    34 (52%)

    No. Government should not try to force the motto, the decal or God on us.

    30 (46%)

    Maybe. I can see both sides of the issue. (Tell us your thoughts in the comments below.)

    1 (1%)

  • gvlgeologist

    Come on, guys! I just went to the poll and I’m #31 in favor of “no”. I’d expect that the Pharyngulistas would have pushed it more than that in 3 or 4 minutes! (even if this isn’t Pharyngula).

  • Sqrat

    There’s already been such a case. Wooley v. Maynard. Came across that quite by coincidence because for a reason I no longer remember I looked up “Live free or die” on wikipedia.

    Anyway, it’s unconstitutional to force people to display an opinion or sentiment against their will. The Wooley v. Maynard case is already a Supreme Court precedent for this, and also pertains to slogans on license plates.

    Look it up on Wikipedia again. Wooley v Maynard wouldn’t bar Georgia from putting “In God We Trust” on its license plates, any more than it barred New Hampshire from putting “Live Free or Die” in its license plates (it’s still there). What it would do is to bar Georgis from prosecuting anyone for covering up the “In God We Trust” motto on its license plates with tape.

  • ttch

    What it would do is to bar Georgia from prosecuting anyone for covering up the “In God We Trust” motto on its license plates with tape.

    It doesn’t bar prosecution of the first case. I’m sure all Georgia freethinkers are itching to jump into that mess, have both the money and the time to fight it, and are willing to be “outed” doing so.

    Not to mention anyone who covers up “God” is asking for their car to be vandalized.

  • cptdoom

    So chaosof99 got me interested, because I live in DC and we have the “Taxation without Representation” plates, which are meant to draw attention to our lack of civil rights under the current governmental framework. Clearly that’s a political statement. From the DC website:

    All new registrants receive ‘Taxation without Representation’ tags automatically. If you are obtaining new regular tags and do not want the Taxation without Representation tags, please inform the DMV employee at the time of registration, and you will receive the ‘www.dc.gov’ website tags.

    So, the placing of the motto would not seem to be unconstitutional, but making people pay extra to avoid the statement might be.

  • eric

    @16: I guess that depends if earlier cases were decided based on the religion clause or speech clause of the first amendment. If its the former, then DC’s license plate wouldn’t necessarily be covered under those precedents.

    Anyway, I’m sensing lots of capitalist opportunity here. Anything from simple pre-printed tape, all the way to license plate holders that occlude that part of a plate with a different slogan.

  • puppygod

    Okay, I guess it’s european in me speaking, but why put anything beside number on the license plate? I understand country flag or symbol, but all that trees and scenery and slogans and whatnot – it looks like designed by seven years old kid with ADHD.

  • I was more referring to something similar to the [i]Woolsey v Maynard[/i] case. They’re making one class of citizens have to pay for a right they should not have to pay for. If it is mandatory on the plates, then they shouldn’t have to pay to cover them up. Atheists and others who may not wish “IGWT” to be on their plates are put in a class of citizens who must make monetary concession to practice the free expression of their religious beliefs.

  • eric

    @18: why put anything beside number on the license plate?

    Politically correct answer: the people of the state are free to decide how their state is represented via license plate. Politically incorrect answer: because they want to proselytize, and send a message to non-christians that this is a christian country and don’t you forget it.

    @19: They’re making one class of citizens have to pay for a right they should not have to pay for.

    Technially, driving is not a right, so neither is getting a license plate. And everyone pays for it via fees: the question here is whether you can legally make one group pay more to remove content they don’t like. IMO its not a cut and dried issue, due to this being a recognizable motto, due to the fact that driving isn’t a right, and due to the fact that states have a long history of providing alternate plate designs for an additional fee.

    I hope if someone challenges the law, they win. But I wouldn’t consider it to be a sure thing.

  • peterh

    There are scads of after-market registration plate holders with an infinitude of messages, slogans and platitudes. There ought to be a market in GA for one that says “But I buy insurance just in case . . . .” After all, nobody gets into much of a snit over those smarmy plaques (most often seen in restaurants & bars) saying “In god we trust, all others pay cash.”

  • peterh

    On the poll linked to above, No is 88%.

  • harold

    The mainstream right wing agenda in the US can be summarized as follows, not necessarily in this order, and not claiming that any other party has a great agenda (some of this is based on open statements of preferred policy by right wing politicians and commentators, and some on the obvious logical goal of right wing policies, even if unstated) –

    Destruction of constitutional rights/enforced religion, regressive taxation, constant unfunded war, increasingly brutal “justice” system (not intended as an insult to individuals within the justice system), constantly reducing access to education, constantly reducing access to health care, constantly reducing social programs for the needy, constantly reducing wages for the vast majority, constantly reducing women’s access to contraception, and demonization of “outgroups”. I’m sure I left out a few things.

    As anyone can note, for at least the last thirty years, this agenda has been succeeding. Symbolic victories against it, such as the improved status of gays in the military, are rare exceptions. Cutbacks in veteran’s benefits and a drive to change military pensions to “401K” plans, meanwhile, are more characteristic of the constantly succeeding right wing agenda.

    Americans overall have either gone in the wrong direction, or made less progress than other countries, in education, life expectancy, infant mortality, median income, work hours, obesity/public health, environmental responsibility, and probably more, and picked up insane new problems like by far the world’s highest incarceration rate, over the last thirty years.

    (My perception is that this snowball began rolling as resentment against the civil rights era. Pat Buchanan recently wrote a column claiming that the “roots of dissatisfaction” go back to 1954. He claimed to be referring to “increasing government spending”, but of course, that was also the year of Brown versus the Board of Education”, and Buchanan surely knows that. But at this point, it almost doesn’t matter why it started.)

    As anyone can also see, this agenda is non-sustainable.

    Something has to give. They either keep winning until “developed” status for the US is lost, with or without some sort of descent into disorder, with or without more or less pulling down the rest of the developed world, or there is a change in direction and the right wing agenda becomes marginalized.

    I’m not a total pessimist, but they just keep pounding.

  • @ Doug Little

    “Don’t they have better things they could be working on? I’m sure everything must be running extremely smoothly in GA for the legislators to be working (if that’s the correct term) on this type of thing.”

    It’s like the S. Dakota House recently passing legislation that encourages schools on how to teach climate change.

    Among the causes they listed for how the climate works is — wait for it — “astrological.”

    Yep, the fucking alignment of the heavenly bodies affect the climate on Earth — except the said “effect.”

    Obviously S. Dakota is a paradise if this is all they have to spend their time on.

  • Michael Heath

    eric writes:

    Technially, driving is not a right, so neither is getting a license plate.

    Not true, we absolutely have a right to travel, drive, and secure a license plate. Government doesn’t give us our rights, they are our’s. However the government has been delegated powers to regulate and in some cases, even prohibit the exercise of such rights in order to protect the superior rights of others, e.g., those of us traveling have a greater safety right than groups we know are dangerous on the roads such as repeat-convicted drunk drivers, those with unsafe vehicles (in terms of registering those vehicles), or 8 year-olds.

  • I was talking about the right to free exercise of religious belief, actually – not the right to drive. Driving is a privilege, yes. The right to free exercise of religious belief (be it an actual belief or lack thereof) is being put up for sale.

  • timberwoof

    The fact that driving is a privilege is irrelevant. The government can’t require drivers to display its preferred religious message.

    If I lived in Georgia I’d fit my car with video cameras and put black tape over the godist text. Any hassle from a policeman gets put on YouTube.

  • eric

    Yes Michael, I know your position on this. Everyone does. Nevertheless, things like sky diving, smoking, playing tiddlywinks, etc… are treated qualitatively differently under law than religious practice and speech. The differences include on which side the burden of proof lies and how much reason government needs to provide to regulate the practice. Driving is treated like the former group, not the latter group. If you want to call everything we do a right, be my guest.

  • Michael Heath

    eric:

    Yes Michael, I know your position on this. Everyone does. Nevertheless, things like sky diving, smoking, playing tiddlywinks, etc… are treated qualitatively differently under law than religious practice and speech. The differences include on which side the burden of proof lies and how much reason government needs to provide to regulate the practice. Driving is treated like the former group, not the latter group. If you want to call everything we do a right, be my guest.

    I’m not sure how your examples and differences challenge or even address my point. Or the court’s for that matter given that the current holding protects our individual right to travel which overwhelms even the bigots in the south who attempted to deny blacks their equal right to access gasoline, food, and lodging by way of the bigots’ property rights.

  • briandavis

    Not to mention anyone who covers up “God” is asking for their car to be vandalized.

    Changing it to “In Fox We Trust” should confuse them.

  • thundergyra

    Screw this. I’m hoping to get a license soon, and I would hardly say I trust in a god.