Yesterday U.S. District Judge Cameron McGowan Currie issued a preliminary injunction halting the issuing of the Christianity-endorsing “I Believe” license plates in South Carolina. The matter will now have to be resolved in court before the plates can adorn the cars of Christian believers. The move was hailed by Americans United head the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, whose organization is sponsoring the pending litigation.
I don’t see why non-Christians would have a problem with this.
“‘The ‘I Believe’ license plate is a clear example of government favoritism toward one religion,’ said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United. ‘The court drove home an important point: South Carolina officials have no business meddling in religious matters.’ … Americans United brought the Summers v. Adams legal challenge on behalf of four local clergy the Rev. Dr. Thomas A. Summers, Rabbi Sanford T. Marcus, the Rev. Dr. Robert M. Knight and the Rev. Dr. Neal Jones as well as the Hindu American Foundation and the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee.”
Supporters of the cross-emblazoned plates have argued that they are legal since any religious group can sponsor similarly biased tags, an argument that quickly falls apart when you speak to local officials about what exactly counts as a religion.
“In South Carolina, Baptists wanted the tag on cars here and pitched the idea to Republican South Carolina Lt. Gov. Andre Bauer’s chief of staff. State Sen. Yancey McGill, a Kingstree Democrat, got the bill passed in a couple of days without even having a public hearing or debate. “It’s a great idea,” McGill said Tuesday, calling it an opportunity to express beliefs. “People don’t have to buy them. But it affords them that opportunity. I welcome any religion tags.” What about Wicca, commonly referred to as witchcraft? “Well, that’s not what I consider to be a religion,” McGill said.”
That sentiment doesn’t just apply to Wiccans of course, Muslims are right out too.
“Asked by a reporter if he would support a license plate for Islam, Rep. Bill Sandifer replied, ‘Absolutely and positively no… I would not because of my personal belief, and because I believe that wouldn’t be the wish of the majority of the constituency in this house district.’”
Judge Cameron McGowan Currie, who is expected to release a written opinion concerning the injunction on Monday, is no stranger to protecting the rights of minority religions. In 2003 the judge ruled in favor of Darla Kaye Wynne, a Wiccan, who was battling against exclusively Christian invocations in the town of Great Falls. There is no word if Currie will also be overseeing the actual trial (though we can all hope). Whomever presides, this case will most likely be litigated for quite some time. South Carolina has become a “hot zone” for battles over church and state issues, and things are just getting warmed up.