Plate-spinning: Texas panel to entertain crosses on car tags

The thing about interest groups working with government is -- well, they're interested in stuff. Some are even interested in Jesus.

After a Texas state panel, acting this month, roundly defeated a proposal for a specialized license plate displaying the Confederate flag, the same panel now has on its December docket the question of a license plate customized with three crosses on it.

Next up for the board in December will be a vote on a proposed plate showing the three Christian crosses at Calvary, with the words "One State Under God," proposed by a Nacogdoches church to raise money for its ministry projects.

Hemant Mehta:

State governments should never be the fundraising arms of local churches. It’s one thing for an optional license plate to benefit museums, non-profit groups, or veterans affairs… but to take sides on which religious groups it wants to support? The DMV would be setting itself up for a lawsuit as soon as a Mosque or atheist group or Jewish group filed for a license plate and got rejected. (Then again, maybe they’d learned their lesson if that happened.)

Right now, the state sells specialty plates reading “God Bless Texas” and “God Bless America.” But in both cases, 80% of the proceeds go back to the Texas Education Agency.

What do you think? If the panel approves the plate, will it have crossed a line? Or is this a welcome pairing of a nonprofit entity's fundraiser in a state that's sometimes known for religious fervor?

Comments (3)

In America, our constitution forbids the government to establish religion as official, favor one religion over another, outlaw religion or require a religious test for public office. And that's good for religion: it protects it from government interference to bend it to political ends. So it's not the place of American government to collect money for religious organizations. It's up to religious organizations to collect money for themselves, by dint of their members' offerings and fundraising work, and thus stand or fall on their own. Government collecting funds for religious organizations runs contrary to our American civic values.

The Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration has many affinity group license plates. Fire departments, veteran's groups, alumni associations, Mensa, etc. etc. One, which I have, has the Episcopal Church shield on the left, the letters EC, and a four-digit number. Underneath is the simple phrase, "The Episcopal Church". The Texas proposal has the phrase "One State Under God", however, which to me is a little over the line - it implies state endorsement of religion.

If putting a cross on a license plate constitutes an establishment of religion, then some Maryland Episcopalians would appear to have a bit of a problem:

http://www.mva.maryland.gov/Vehicle-Services/SpecialtyPlates/displayPlateDetails.asp?PLATEID=659

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