Controversial “One State Under God” Plates Approved
The DMV approved a religious plate the same day the Sons of Confederate Veterans filed a lawsuit against the agency for infringement of free speech.
Drivers looking for another way to display their devotion to Jesus to other motorists are in luck. On Thursday the state Department of Motor Vehicles approved the “One State Under God” plate.
The black-and-white “Calvary Hill” plate features three crosses on a hill above the four-word slogan, which is taken from the Texas Pledge, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported. The Department of Motor Vehicles’ governing board approved the plate in a 4-3 vote.
While the “One State Under God” plate might be the most explicitly religious plate to exist in the state, is not Texas’ first plate with religious language. According to testimony from Jonathan Saenz, an attorney for the Liberty Institute, plates bearing the phrases “God Bless Texas,” “God Bless America,” and “One Nation Under God” already exist, the Austin American-Statesman reported.
At the Texas Observer, Patrick Michels chronicled how attempts to add crosses to plates have faltered in other states: “South Carolina’s attempt to print license plates with a cross was successfully challenged in federal court two years ago, and a proposal for an even more Jesus-y design failed that year in Florida’s legislature.”
(A Perry spokeswoman put some distance between the governor and the decision. “This was a decision for the DMV board, and Gov. Perry was not involved,” Lucy Nashed told the Statesman.)
This was not the only buzz swirling around specialty license plates in Texas on Thursday. The Sons of Confederate Veterans announced that it filed a federal lawsuit to overturn the board’s November decision to block the creation of a specialty plate featuring the Confederate battle flag, the Statesman reported.
“Opponents of the Confederate plate contended the flag was a racist symbol that had no place on a state license plate. Opponents of the so-called ‘Calvary hill’ plate — including representatives from Americans United for Separation of Church & State, the National Council of Jewish Women and the Texas Freedom Network — insisted the Christian symbol had no place on a state plate, either,” Mike Ward wrote in the Statesman.
More than 130 specialty plates exist in Texas. To have one, drivers pay an additional $30 to $40 fee per year, with the bulk of that money going to a group designated by the plate.
Some celebrated the news. The Liberty Institute’s David B. Walls cheered the decision: “First Amdmt prevails,” he tweeted. Franke, a Hoosier who commented on the Statesman story wrote, “Indiana has an ‘In God We Trust’ plate that is available at no extra charge. I have one, and I’m sorry if anyone feels threatened by it but there is no constitutional issue here.”
Others were alarmed. “If we’re going to do this Calvary Hill license plate thingy, how about a smorgasboard for all religions/secularists?” Rudy England, an Austin-based minister and attorney, wondered on Twitter. “I may not have read the bible (hey, but I did see the movie!); however, I can only guess that the sandaled one didn’t consider anyone more of a follower if they plastered a plate on their donkey’s trunk,” commenter Victor G. wrote.