Texas approves Jesus license plate

December 15, 2011 • 2:30 pm

How’d your Beamer look with this baby on the back?

According to the Los Angeles Times, these clearly unconstitutional license plates, called “Calvary Hill,” were just approved by the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). Texas governor (and presidential candidate) Rick Perry refused to comment, which is a tacit endorsement given his opposition earlier this year to a Confederate-flag plate proposed by the Sons of Confederate Veterans.

It’s even more unconstitutional than just the picture and motto, for the money goes to baby Jesus:

Motorists who choose to buy the plate pay a surcharge, which is divided between the state and the sponsoring group — in the case of Calvary Hill, a Christian-based youth anti-gang ministry in the east Texas city of Nacogdoches.

And this would be funny if it weren’t so sadly typical of Dysfunctional America:

But Jonathan Saenz, the director of legislative affairs for the Austin offices of the conservative Liberty Institute, blogged in support of the plates, saying critics are attacking Christians.

“People have this view that Christians should be treated as second-class citizens when it comes to exercising their 1st Amendment rights,” Saenz told The Times, adding that when it comes to purchasing the plates, “This is a private decision and private speech.”

“It’s ludicrous for anyone to suggest that because someone puts a license plate on their car, that is endorsing religion,” he said, adding that the design is “about as mainstream Texan and American as you can get.”

I wonder how a plate with a crescent moon and the slogan “One State Under Allah” would fare.

And if you’re a Texas (or anyone else, I guess), you can complain to the Texas DMV by filling in the online form here.

If you’re one of those equal-time folks, you might suggest the following plate, created by reader tabb:

h/t: Joshua

63 thoughts on “Texas approves Jesus license plate

  1. Since the plate clearly is directed at Christians, and not faith in general, it seems highly unconstitutional. Further, to deny the issuance of the plate would not be a first amendment issue: They can pray, preach and publish to their hearts content; just not with state sponsorship.

    1. This development may indeed be “sadly typical of dysfunctional America,” but there may be a silver lining. Why hasn’t this sort of thing been routinely put on plates in the past? One possibility is that this is a desperate and angry PUSHBACK to the reality that atheism is finally being discussed in the public square, and, more importantly, is making serious inroads among the better educated young people. Christians are perhaps feeling threatened because the globalization of culture is exposing the silliness and arbitrariness of all religions, and scientific evidence is seeping into the mainstream as a real threat. Such a positive spin may also be placed on the anger and name-calling of “sophisticated” fairy-tale-ologists … I mean, theologians (we can respond to name-calling with our own version).

  2. I hope Americans United for Separation of Church and State see this, and the ACLU, too. This is a vicious attack on the Constitution and Bill of Rights!

    1. They have. There was an interview between a Liberty Institute spokesperson and (I think) an ACLU rep on CNN this morning about this.

      BTW, is the Liberty Institute at all connected with Liberty University?

  3. We just returned from Florida and saw a lot of “choose life” license plates too. Isn’t it funny how the right wing quote-unquote want government out of our lives and yet they demand control over women’s bodies, birth control and each person’s religion.

          1. Oh, that’s right, how could I have missed that! Thanks for reminding me. 😉

            ps my reply to your last comment is at the end of this page, I ran out of reply buttons, LOL! 😉

    1. Amelie,

      By giving a person the “option” to choose this plate, does not constitute an attempt to control a persons religion decision or mandate a faith that the society must believe.

      I honestly laugh at everyone throwing “Constitution” and “Bill of Rights” into this to make it more than what it is.

      Wake up people!!! This is a plate design the people can choose. On the flip side, if this was the ONLY plate that Texas was offer, then you could be screaming what you are.

      Please stop being butt hurt that your faith, school, college, ect. did not get selected for a plate that was put into mass production.

      1. I did not say it did, Steve. Read my comment more carefully. The plate may not constitute a desire to control, but Christians have a long history of proselytizing. And good luck arguing that’ not an attempt to control people’s religion.

        The plate is merely obnoxious but it also violates the seperation of church and state, and PLEASE make me laugh by claiming that a Muslim or Wiccan group would be able to do the same with a plate in Texas.

        It’s obnoxious, biased and illegal to discriminate like that.

        Furthermore Christianity has invaded classrooms with anti-science and anti-evolution. Which is illegal as well. And obnoxious.

        1. Amelie,

          Please state for me the First Amendment…here I will post it here:

          Congress shall make NO LAW respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

          A plate design is not a law, nor is it doing ANY of the other items listed after no law.

          Therefore no law has been broken.

          You stating that the design is obnoxious as you put it is just a matter of opinion, if someone was to say that “You are ugly, and shallow.” does that make it so? Of course not, it would only be that person’s opinion.

          Now how you act to the statement would display whether or not you believe it’s validity.

          As far as a Muslim or Wicca plate and whether or not it would be approved, well what I must ask you is “Have they attempted to get a plate manufactured?”

          Without record of another “group of faith” being denied, you or I have no grounds to state that they would or would not approve such a plate.

          As stated by another poster, the state needs to determine whether or not enough interest in a specific specialty plate would bring in enough revenue to be profitable.

          Or post was based on opinion and assumption.

          1. I see you take the time to merely skim our constitution and do not read the clauses. Look up Everson vs the Board of Education.

            You seem to display some insecurity in the rest of your comment, Steve. Tell me: do you think intelligent design should be taught in schools?

            1. I excluded the clauses because they are additions (right or wrong) added by others than our founding fathers.

              I fail to see how the remainder of my post displayed insecurity.

              Yes I do, who are we to limit or rule out that evolution was not part of that design?

              Even Darwin himself said that to look at the parts of the eye and to believe that it just happened would be nonsense.

              Therefore I believe that was a start, a creation, from there things evolved.

              I think what you are trying to get me to come out and say “We should teach that God created life and everything evolved from that.”

              The question is what word do we use to give credit for that creation?

              Different faiths give that creator a different name.

              I find one in particular rather amusing, The Flying Spaghetti Monster. Birthed as a joke due to a school’s intent to teach intelligent design.

              The amusing part is, it endorses creation.

              I can see I will not persuade you anymore than you can persuade me, so we can agree to disagree.

              In the end neither one of us have the circle of influence to change what Texas has done.

              1. So you think the Founding Fathers wanted a static, instead of dynamic country? Where we cannot progress by ensuring freedom from State-sponsored oppression? That’s pretty narrow-minded.

                “Yes I do, who are we to limit or rule out that evolution was not part of that design?”

                Ah, so you’re a Wedge Theory guy. I get it.

                We are scientists, for one thing. We base our science teachings in the schools on something we call evidence. Want to provide some? I want to warn you I have a Master’s in Science and not once has a Creationist been able to provide me with a published study or even hypothetical evidence.

                Evolutionary theory is not a belief. Let’s say I told you “I do not beleive in red blood cells”. Well, no one gives a rat’s behind what I believe. They’re either there or they’re not. So why should I care what you believe?

                Just because you don’t understand the Miller – Urey experiment where amino acids were produced from nonorganic precursors like water, methane, hydrogen and ammonia, that does not discredit the experiment.

                In other words, unanswered questions in evolutionary theory do not by default, prove intelligent design. If you want to play with the big boys in science, show us some evidence now.

              2. Please point out where in my posts I came on here to convince you or anyone of anything other than this plate design is not breaking a law?

                I see you like titles, my title is a father and before that a Computer draftsmen with a heavy background in mechanical engineering.

                So with my education background, how would I even begin to understand what the “Miller – Urey experiment” was or what it proved.

                As for what I am:

                I am a Christian with an open mind. That tries not to put God “in a box” just so I can have a better understanding of him.

                I struggle to focus my being a Christian on my relationship with Jesus and not act the Holy Spirit and judge people.

                I don’t attempt to force my beliefs down the throat of an individual, but will share my testimony with those who want to hear it.

                Amelie I tried to gracefully back out of this debate but obviously you had to have the last word.

                So this will be my last reply, in the end one of us is right, one of us is wrong, if there is no “sweet by and by” what harm have created by believing that there was?

  4. Similar optional plates exist for colleges and universities. For 9/11 (and the money going to 9/11 funds). For cat lovers. For dog lovers. For parrotheads and other rock band fans.

    I think this is going to fly as constitutional as long as a couple of criteria are met:

    1. The state approval process uses time, place and manner criteria rather than speech-content criteria (for example, you must show you can sell 1,000 of them. Or it must not contain profanity.)

    2. Its an ‘open forum’ process, i.e. open to special interest groups of any type.

    If those criteria are met, the ACLU (or anyone else) is going to have an uphill battle arguing that religious license plates should be specifically excluded.

    And that’s the question I would ask the other folks on this board who think its unconstitutional – why should religious groups be not-allowed to do this when the state allows pretty much any special interest group of any other type to do this?

    1. Just a caveat – I would also agree that the “NO special interest group should be allowed to make special license plates, because the state imprimatur of a license plate is unavoidable” is also a constitutional solution. But the fact that the “no forum” solution is constitutional does not make the “open forum” solution less constitutional.

      1. I think “one state under God” stretches it– but I’m glad to have the nutters identify themselves on the road.

        I bet if the Pastafarian plates come out, they will be as big a seller! 🙂

        Christians seem to be all for “free speech” until non Christians start exercising their free speech rights as freely as Christians do.

        1. Yes, I agree with both of your last two comments – secularists should test the system’s equality by submitting examples of their own, and many fundies do seem to hypocritically support open forums only as long as Christians benefit from them more than others.

          One comment on the pasta plate. I would expect that most proposals for special plates need to show they expect to break even; i.e., that there is enough interest in buying them that they’ll sell enough for the state to recoup production costs at a reasonable plate cost (typically $15-$30/plate).

          So, in this case the ‘thousand flowers bloom’ approach is a bad idea. Secularists and atheists are better off joining together to support a single design or a few designs, rather than a whole bunch of different groups submitting their own.

    2. As the author of this blog said – would they allow this for Muslims? Hell, no. So why should it be allowed for religious messages? Haven’t we heard of the seperation of church and state? The RMV is a state agency. End of story.

    3. Why stop at license plates? Why not Jesus-themed drivers licenses and passports? Or money? (No, wait, we have that already.)

    4. This should not fly as long as the state is involved in dispursing funds to religiously affiliated organizations. If that is corrected, I think it becomes just another “vanity” plate.

      At least Texas isn’t doing what GA is!

      I predict that the incidence of car vandalizing will sky rocket in GA being mainly perpetrated by guess who?

    5. eric, I tend to see it your way, too. Vanity plates cost more, so the state is actually realizing a bit more profit from those who choose them over those who go with the regular issue.

      The problem is that I’m pretty sure it would be a lot harder for secular or pro-choice groups to get approval for contrasting plates…

    1. Nasty-roaches, we called it in my youth. In 1970, after the first two Apollo landings, I was in the 7th grade at a Nacogdoches public (sensu USA) school. Our “science teacher”, a clergyman, proclaimed in “science” class that the lord almighty would punish humans severely for “leaving Earth and touching the face of a heavenly body”. Three years later, in “biology” class, another teacher reluctantly arrived at the evolution chapter in the textbook. “How many believe in evolution?” he asked the class. Only I and a friend raised our hands. “How many believe the almighty god did it?” Twenty-eight raised their hands. He then asked for a volunteer from both groups to discuss their view in class. I gladly volunteered. The debacle that ensued achieved nothing as these students’ brains were already wasted by years of abuse. After class, I was physically threatened by a band of australopithecines, but this is to be expected. Seven years later, I escaped to Scandinavia 😀

  5. It’s a goddamn license plate. Every nutcase in America has a vanity tag touting some bullshit or another. Who cares. Save your ire for something at least moderately important.

      1. Come on, guys. I’ve met more Texans with reasonable views than I have in my good ol’ state of Massachusetts. Let’s not pick on people based on where they live.

    1. Nothing says “mainstream Texan” like a creepy display or tortuous execution devices, I guess.

      Don’t forget Truck Nutz and naked-lady-profile mudflaps. 🙂

      1. Speaking as a native Texan, truck nutz are stupid, but I like naked lady mudflaps…ok, so I just like naked ladies.

        But seriously, this is yet another prejudicial thing to right my state representative and senators about. Unfortunately, even though I live in fairly liberal Denton county, things are so gerrymandered in Texas that its hard to get a rational person elected to represent, the sane, and sadly silent majority of Texans. Most Texans I know ignore/avoid politics except for the rare time they think it directly affects them. Unfortunately, they don’t realize it always affects them.

  6. Christians, truly, don’t understand separation of church and state. They don’t want a mosque near Ground Zero, but have no problem with this. The bigotry is comically outlandish.

    1. It’s like Tracie Harris said on The Atheist Experience blog,

      No matter how many times you trot out their own Golden Rule to them, they seem to have a marked inability to actually understand it. They fully get the first bit, “Do unto others.” It’s the second part that gives them trouble, “as you would have done to you.”

    2. Make that almost all Christians…..the principle of separating the church and the state started with the anabaptists in the 1600s. Of course the other xians killed and tortured them for such heresy.

  7. I don’t think I have any problem with this. I look forward to a time when license plates like this look as stupid as license plates with “Elvis Lives”, but until then, I don’t think we should sweat the small stuff.

    1. New Hampshire broke the mould with “Live Free or Die” on their plates. I love those plates.
      On a side note, I wonder if some atheist groups in Texas could get enough people to put “One State Under Allah” on their plates to make a statement? It would be fun to see how Christians would react.

        1. With the added benefit of demonstrating real bias when the state rejects that slogan but is ok with “one state under god.”

    2. There are bigger fish to fry, for sure. I think FFRF should be more concerned with continuing to put secular ideas and criticism of religious truth claims out there, than with making a stink every time someone wants to put God on something small like an optional license plate.

  8. I believed South Carolina tried the thing and it was declared unconstitutional.

    It would be interesting to go the the high end “gentleman’s clubs” in Dallas and see how many religious license plates one could find in the parking lot.

  9. Time for Texas and all the other Red States to just become their own nation. No new civil war, just let them go and seal off our borders.

    Why is it that places where people who are liberal, intellectual, and progressive are just pocket regions (San Fran, Provincetown), but all the rest get whole states? Says something pretty sad that in 2011 thinking and acting independently is still dangerous.

    1. The ‘pocketing’ is due to the fact that urban areas tend to be more liberal.

      Remember that it’s people who matter: an acre of wheat does not hold a political opinion. There might be big red spaces, but in terms of population, the numbers are about even.

  10. Incidentally, here is the list of vanity/special interest group plates Texas already allows.

    No Texas Atheists or pastafarians, yet. That would indeed be a goot test to see just how speech-neutral the state really is.

  11. @Steve (sorry, the thread ran out) why would your background preclude you from understanding the science I mentioned? I am no smarter than you – what ticks me off is willful ignorance. I happen to have a friend from grad school, a devoted Christian who was fine with evolution and opposed teaching ID in schools. Not because she had a problem with faith – but simply because there is no evidence of it and it does not belong in a science classroom where only testable ideas belong.

    I think you are one of those Christians who actually are willing to listen to scientists on this one. There are many like you and I keep telling people this – faith does not preclude someone from understanding science – but we must understand what it is and what it is not.

    1. “what ticks me off is willful ignorance.”

      We can definitely agree on that.

      And yes Faith does not preclude someone from understanding science.

      As discoveries are made and our limited understanding expands, I see that as God placing that knowledge in our minds. Of course there is no evidence to that 😉 but it works for me.

      And I can also understand that ID lacks proof, and is just a theory and most likely will never advance father than that, so I can see why that would not merit much weight to be taught.

      The one of the most enlightening thing I was told was from my family DR. “half of what we know about medicine is right, the other half is wrong. We are just learning which is which.”

  12. There is no constitutional issue here. The founding fathers sought to prevent the establishment of a state religion such as they had in their homeland England. There is nothing unconstitutional about license plates, nativity scenes or the like being promoted by the US govt. nobody is being coerced to join any religion. FYI The phrase separation of church and state never appears in the Constitution. It was from a private letter written by T Jefferson and was popularized by a Supreme Court justice nominated by FDR who was a member of the KKK and hated Catholics. His motivation was that he wanted to tax the Church on their proprty holdings. You all need to educate yourselves on this matter.

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