Most, if not all, states in this country – that being the gool old US of A – have long offered what are referred to as "vanity" auto license plates on which purchasers can request the plate's "number" be a particular word, short phrase, or some other combination of letters and numbers significant of something or other as long as the message is not obscene or considered to be otherwise offensive. These messages are usually limited to no more than seven digits or letters. Now, many states offer "specialty" plates that promote a wide variety of things such as state colleges and universities, charitable causes, sports teams, arts organizations, the environment, and so on. Normally, a portion of the collected fee goes to benefit the respective organization or cause.
Recently here in good old Indiana, Woody Burton, a state legislator, led a successful effort to make available a plate with the legend "In God We Trust" stamped upon it. They were approved a few months ago and have proven to be wildly popular here in the bible belt with over five hundred thousand of them now bolted to the backside of the family sedan or pickup. While given my godless perspective I find these plates somewhat offensive, I thought, what the hell? Who gives a crap? It isn't a battle worth fighting. I know that to actively oppose the plate would lead to the inevitable charge that, if I am so offended by the phrase, I should stop carrying and using US currency upon which the odious phrase has long been emblazoned. (Actually, I don't use much cash now owing to the widespread ability to use debit cards for pretty much everything.) But, at any rate, I thought, let it be.
However, an enterprising fellow in Allen County, Indiana, one Mark Studler persuaded the ICLU, Indiana's arm of the national ACLU, to file suit on his behalf against the state as regards these very plates. The legal issue at hand is not the plate per se, but the fact that they have been made available to anyone wanting them at no additional charge over and above the normal fee the state charges for license plates, while all other specialty plates sold in Indiana have an additional $15 administrative fee tacked onto them. It is Studler's and the ICLU's contention that either all specialty plates be charged the fee, or none of them should be so charged. I agree.
Unsurprisingly, the Indiana State Legislature is largely made up of devout, Protestant Christians who were either enthusiastic promoters of the plate, or if they had any misgivings, did not dare voice them so as not to offend the tender sensibilities of their properly righteous fellow lawmakers or their like-minded constituents.
While given the bigger picture of what's going on in the world, this is pretty small potatoes; lest we forget Fascism started out as relatively small spuds as well. If we don't fight the seemingly insignificant battles in the trenches, we've got no chance when they suddenly lock down the Federal government and force all of us to have "In God We Trust" branded onto our foreheads.Powered by Sidelines