Monday, April 23, 2007

ACLU Sues Over "In God We Trust" Plate

The ACLU of Indiana has filed a lawsuit in Marion Superior Court concerning the issuance of the "In God We Trust" license plate. An AP story gives the appearance the case is based on an equal protection claim as opposed to a religious separation claim. The plates are being issued like the regular Indiana license plate in that no special fee is charged to offset the administrative costs as is the case with other specialty license plates. The AP's Ken Kusmer writes:

A legal complaint filed Monday challenges the constitutionality of the year-old law that created the "In God We Trust" specialty license plate, saying its supporters receive preferential treatment not available to supporters of other specialty plates.

The lawsuit filed in Marion Superior Court in Indianapolis claims motorists who request the "In God We Trust" plates receive preferential treatment because they do not have to pay a $15 administrative fee that the Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles collects. The administrative fees are added to other fees whose proceeds promote the causes of the other specialty plates.

The plaintiff bringing the case, Mark Studler, said he pays an additional $40 for one of the popular environmental plates depicting an eagle above the word "Environment." Of the total fee, $25 goes to a state trust to purchase land set aside for conservation or recreational purposes and the remaining $15 is for the administration fee.

The 2006 law establishing the "In God We Trust" plate waives the administrative fee.

"Therefore, those who obtain an 'In God We Trust' license plate are afforded the opportunity to make an affirmative statement through display of the plate without any additional cost while Mr. Studler must pay additional fees for his environmental license plate," the complaint said. Studler is being represented by the Indiana branch of the American Civil Liberties Union.

As AI previously reported, the state is robbing the state's highway fund to subsidize the issuance of the "In God We Trust" license plates to the tune of about $6 million a year. If you check out the BMV's website, you will see the agency declares the "In God We Trust" to be a regular license plate. Persons renewing their plates while visiting BMV license branches are offered a blue or green plate by BMV employees.

37 comments:

donna said...

Awesome! AI, from a legal perspective any thoughts on an outcome? What are the potential ramifications?

Lance said...

"Persons renewing their plates while visiting BMV license branches are offered a blue or green plate by BMV employees."

I think a more accurate statement would be "patrons have the choice of a blue or green plate". No one offers me anything at the BMV. However I offer my credit card and get royally screwed.

If the state just charges a fee for the IGWT plate (which we should, I don't need my taxes going up to subsidize them) is there any issue here, at all? Any issue for the ACLU, or people who percieve the word "God" in the context of government to be dirty? Can we all get along with the plate, if the people that want it pay $5 or something to cover the cost?

Anonymous said...

Just charge for the plate and give the proceeds to the Indiana National Guard or maybe to the local VFW lodge so they don't need illegal cherry masters anymore.

Anonymous said...

Go ahead and be giddy if you want, Donna (and others). If this case prevails, which it may not, the simple solution will be a $10 administrative fee. And if that happens, I doubt the number of people choosing that plate will decline by more than 10%. It will probably STILL outnumber the "regular" plate within a few short years.

Anonymous said...

Isn't it interesting that the ACLU didn't challenge the plate itself? Sounds to me like they are giving up.

Of course, how would they possibly raise money for such a cause given that the money they would be soliciting has the exact same message? How funny.

I'd say this is a HUGE victory for Christians in our state. A rare victory, these days. But definitely a victory.

Wilson46201 said...

Isn't this plate an open insult to Jews? I believe it is against their religious practice to spell out openly the word "G*d".

Anonymous said...

Wilson46201,

It's against their religious practice to demean openly ignorant people.

donna said...

I'd say this is a HUGE victory for Christians in our state. A rare victory, these days. But definitely a victory.

2:30 PM EST

Sad that you consider this a HUGE victory. Eradicating extreme poverty would be a HUGE victory for Christians.

Anonymous said...

Poor, poor Donna. Always making her point by making some other point.

Jeff Newman said...

No kidding, 3:02, for something so symbolic as a stupid vanity plate to be labeled a HUGE victory shows just how out of whack some of these folks' priorities are.

Now if this meeting between the clergy and the police results in a reduction in violent crime, this is the kind of victory that a true Christian would celebrate: fewer of God's children dying in the streets by violence.

Back to the license plate, the fact that it is robbing the highway fund of millions of dollars is what pisses me off. If people want to pay for it I couldn't care less about the plate itself, other than it just demonstrates we're truly in the bible belt here in Hoosierland. If the shoe fits I guess.

donna said...

anonymous 3:12 states: "Poor, poor Donna. Always making her point by making some other point."

Ah yes, the old same condescending response from anonymous. An interesting blog characteristic you have.

Wilson46201 said...

Anonymous nobodies should be more Christian and show love and charity to other commenters.

A kind word turneth away wrath!

Anonymous said...

Wilson, where DO you get these things?

Half my friends are Jewish, and none knows of any prohibition against spelling out the word "God."

The discriminatory issuance of this plate vs. other vanity plates is the issue. No more,no less.

Try not to read too much into the ICLU's verbiage. The fact they filed it this quickly is amazing.

It has strong merit and should prevail.

I'd argue, the state shouldn't issue it AT ALL, regardless of the fee. My Christian faith can withstand the lack of license tag billboards just fine, thank you very much.

Our Constitution demands the state not sanction any religion.

No-charge plates that promote my God, however predominant His followers are, are exactly what our Constitution prohibits. How much clearer do you need to have it? Your desire to see our God on a tag is your right, but, that's where courts come in. They stop this kind of silliness.

And now, when the plate is jerked, Eric Miller, Jay Sekulow, Micah CLark et al will have something to rail against. And raise money to "fight." Something they never should've had in the first place.

Forgive them, Father, they know not what they do.

Anonymous said...

That's pretty hilarious coming from Wilson. Did you find God, or what?

Wilson46201 said...

It's an Orthodox Jewish thing -- you wouldn't understand!

Anonymous said...

"Most Orthodox Jews, and many Jews of other denominations, believe it wrong to write the word "God" on any substance which can be destroyed. Therefore, they will write "G-d" or "Gd" as what they consider a more respectful symbolic representation."

Source: Wikipedia

Anonymous said...

It's not the plate that is such a "huge" victory. It's the fact that ACLU was not even willing to put up a fight on an issue involving Christianity. That truly IS a "HUGE" victory.

Anonymous said...

Wilson's right: many orthodox, reform, and conservative Jews do not fully spell or utter the word G-d. Thus, the offense of destroying the piece of paper, or license plate, bearing the name, couldn't be committed.

But that aside: we should all rejoice and thank the ACLU for taking this state government on yet again, so that we all may fully realize our First Amendment freedoms.

Anonymous said...

anonymous:
"It's not the plate that is such a "huge" victory. It's the fact that ACLU was not even willing to put up a fight on an issue involving Christianity. That truly IS a "HUGE" victory."

As long as you think so. The ACLU works in mysterious ways.

Anonymous said...

I just got off the phone with the most Orthodox Jew I know. Great guy. Belongs to the most-conservative temple in town. He is the equivalent of an elder in that congregation, or was--I think his term just ended. We have had endless (friendly) religious debates for over two decades.

He says this "g*d" thing is nonsense. He refused to use the term "old wives' tale," because some congregations may practice it, he said, but it has no spiritual base in any religious teachings and hasn't been practiced hardly at all in a long, long time. Wikipedia be damned...

Just sayin'.

It's an Orthodox thing, and I wouldn't understand? How freaking flippant can you get? Try not to be so condescending, Wilson. You're not that smart in the first place, so in the end, it just looks silly.

Wilson46201 said...

It's a pity that some anonymous nobodies come here to berate other commenters instead of contributing intelligent discussion to the subject of the thread...

Jibes, attacks and insults seem to be their stock-in-trade instead of witty repartee or informed commentary.

Anonymous said...

You know, Wilson, there are some anonymous posts here that aren't always that smart or nice. But whenver we see your name, we know without even reading that it is likely to be both stupid and vile.

So what's your point?

Wilson46201 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Wilson46201 said...

This thread is to be a discussion of the separation of Church and State in Indiana but the hateful anonymous nobodies are busily trying to pervert the thread into a discussion of their own particular bete noir.

As AdvanceIndiana becomes more important, the more we will find agents provocateurs trying to make civilized discussion impossible in here. It's an old tactic of the reactionaries...

Anonymous said...

Anon 4:52-

That's quite an elaborate way of saying "No true Scotsman. . ."

Anonymous said...

The ineffable name of deity.Brother Woody knew better than to bang the drum for such a plate in the first place.
Are you traveling Wilson46201?

Anonymous said...

The ineffable name of deity.Brother Woody knew better than to bang the drum for such a plate in the first place.
Are you traveling Wilson46201?

indyernie said...

5 of 27 comments are Wilson's. Again he takes over another's blog.
Wilson if you dislike the plate so much, don't buy one...opps I forgot, Wilson rides the Indygo.
I don't think you’ll find the plate on a bus Wilson ...so give it a rest will ya?

Wilson46201 said...

Rick, Darla & Ernie: your candidate lost - I helped - now get over it! No wonder you're called "The Sorest Losers of 2006".

Anonymous said...

Just paint over the In God We Trust, then you can express your own creativity and philosophy. A pentagram would look pretty cool in that space.

indyernie said...

"your candidate lost - I helped -"
Get over yourself already.
I've talked to loyal democrats...mention Wilson Allen and faces contort. Most think you’re a joke. We agree.

Knew you would take the bait.

Anonymous said...

Why does the state of Indiana need to pay over $6 million out of the highway fund so this plate can be free to you? That's the question.

How many charitable plates-- you know, for children's funds, health charities, veteran's cars, universities-- are not being bought, because this plate is free?

It's not just that religion and state should be separated -- this was a bone headed FINANCIAL move.

Since it's so popular, what kinda windfall-- say for Hoosier healthcare -- coulda been raised by just charging the same amount as the regular special plates? 500,000 x $15 = $7.5 million!!

It's not about shoving your religion or your patriotism in my face. It's about common sense!

Anonymous said...

It's about both, 10:19, but your point is well-taken.

The deficit for these extra plates is likely taken from the general fund. Which has to be made up somehow.

Plus, the state should just stay away from religion. Period. Our Constitutions demand it. Condone it, allow it to flourish, etc. But do not sponsor it.

Woody Burton isn't too bright, but the bill to sponsor these plates, should've been called the Hateful Right Wing Lawyers' Full Employment Act, or, the Eric Miller Pension Fund, in short.

Whatever happens in court, and it won't likely be soon, this bruhaha will be used as fodder for those folks for years.

You heard the other side of this in the SJR7 debate: "we must take power away from activist judges." "We used to be able to pray in this chamber, and now we can't because of an activist judge."

An activist federal judge, well-schooled in the Constitution, Eric and Micah. Who ruled properly.

Thick heads fill easily with garbage.

spotman said...

I'M GLAD THAT THE ACLU IS PURSUING THE LICENSE PLATE ISSUE. AS A VETERAN I FIND IT SAD THAT I MUST PAY EXTRA MONEY TO SHOW HOW PROUD I AM OF BEING A VET WHILE PEOPLE CAN PURCHASE THE IGWT PLATE AT NO EXTRA COST. I'LL GLADLY PAY FOR MINE BUT I HOPE THE STATE LOSES THIS TIME.

Anonymous said...

I wish I still lived in Indiana so that as a taxpayer I could sue the state myself. Join the Freedom From Religion Foundation at ffrf.org

Anonymous said...

Our country's motto is "In God We Trust". If you don't agree with that, leave.

Anonymous said...

SEPARATION OF CHURCH AND STATE AT ALL TIMES. IT IS THE LAW.