The ACLU in Indiana has just filed suit against the state’s Bureau of Motor Vehicles on behalf of a tree-hugger who doesn’t like religion. Does that sound unfair? Here are the facts, from an article in the Journal Times in Fort Wayne, Indiana. (There is some irony in the fact that the article came to the Indiana newspaper from the Los Angeles Times, and has a distinct liberal bias as a result.)
Mark Studler is the ACLU’s chosen plaintiff. He normally gets, for a special fee of $40, a pro-environment specialty plate. But when he found out that there was another plate “that he felt also qualified as a specialty plate” and which bore the motto, “In God we trust,” he objected that it did not have a fee associated with it. The ACLU then filed suit against this “discrimination.”
The article failed to mention that “In God we trust” is the national motto of the US, that it appears on our currency and many other places, and that it first appears in the fourth stanza of the national anthem, “The Star-Spangled Banner.” It also fails to note that the motto has received constitutional approval in several cases, including in the Supreme Court.
The position of Indiana is that this is not a “specialty plate” like 79 others for special groups and purposes. Instead, it is an alternative standard plate, the other Indiana plate being one with a pastoral scene on it. State officials note that more than 540,000 citizens have chosen to use the plate with the national motto, which is more than 10% of all Indiana plates that have been issued for cars and trucks. This is one and a half times as many as ALL of the 79 specialty plates that have been issued.
Since it would be legal for Indiana to issue all its plates with the national motto on it – for reference see the “Live free or die” case from New Hampshire in the US Supreme Court – it seems obvious that the state can issue 10% of its plates this way. Neither the ACLU nor the reporter seemed aware of the New Hampshire case.