South Carolina ‘Christian License Plates’ Irk American Jewish Congress

Friday, May 2nd, 2008

South Carolina, the state some Christians want to see secede from the Union to become a political Garden of Eden for evangelicals, has run afoul of the American Jewish Congress.

This week the group weighed in with Gov. Mark Sanford, urging him to veto a bill creating state license plates that say “I believe,” along with the image of a cross.

Marc Stern, the AJCongress’ tireless church-state warrior and general counsel, said in a letter to Sanford that “it is long since settled that the government may not lend its support to one religion by permanently displaying on its own behalf the religious symbols of one faith.”

Private parties, he said, can display whatever religious symbols they want on their cars – those ubiquitous fish symbols come to mind — or even purchase vanity plates with religious messages, such as references to Bible verses.

But the state goes too far when it “creates special Christian plates by special legislation, with no assurances that other faiths could obtain similar legislative approval for plates of their faiths,” Stern wrote.

In other words, it’s a big church-state no-no.

That brings up an interesting point; how would South Carolina legislators respond if Jewish groups sought create a special plate – maybe saying “chosen,” along with a menorah? And would the state’s reaction be if local Muslims called for plates with their own slogans and symbols?

The South Carolina Senate has already passed the Christian license plate bill; it is pending in the state’s General Assembly.

About the Author
Douglas M. Bloomfield is a syndicated columnist, Washington lobbyist and consultant. He spent nine years as the legislative director and chief lobbyist for AIPAC.