Religion in Society
Religion in Society

Americans United Threatens Lawsuit Over Christian License Plates

| by AUSCS
Americans United for Separation of Church and State has urged the Florida Senate to reject a bill creating two “Christian” license plates for state motorists and warned that a lawsuit may result if the measure becomes law.

SB 642 mandates issuance of a plate depicting the crucified head of Jesus complete with a crown of thorns. It also mandates a second plate featuring a large cross, a stained-glass church window and the words “I Believe.”

“These plates clearly violate the Constitution and basic fairness,” said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, Americans United executive director. “It’s wrong for the legislature to favor one faith over others. If this bill passes, it is almost certain to provoke a lawsuit.

“I am frankly shocked that any legislator would think these plates are constitutionally acceptable,” Lynn continued. “It is deeply offensive when officials play political games with the sacred symbols of any faith.”

Americans United, a Washington, D.C.-based civil liberties group, has successfully blocked issuance of an “I Believe” license plate in South Carolina. A federal judge ordered the state to temporarily stop any steps toward issuing the plate and indicated that local clergy represented by Americans United will prevail in their lawsuit.

In its letter to the Florida Senate, Americans United asserted that state blessing for two license plates prominently displaying the symbols and images of the majority religion “would offend not only Floridians who are members of minority faiths, but also Christians who believe it is inappropriate for the state to issue these kinds of license plates, because they co-opt the religious symbols, images, and beliefs of their faith for the state’s benefit, thereby demeaning those sacred images.”

The Florida Senate may vote on the license-plate measure as early as today.