JMG reader Chris tips us to the news that a federal court has ruled against South Carolina’s proposed “I Believe” license plate, calling it a violation of separation of church and state.
In a summary judgment ruling, U.S. District Judge Cameron McGowan Currie said the plate was based on a discriminatory law. “Such a law amounts to state endorsement not only of religion in general, but of a specific sect in particular,” Currie said. The plate featured a cross set against a stained glass window. Americans United for Separation of Church and State, which served as counsel in the case, praised the decision. “This is great news,” said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, Americans United executive director, in a statement. “Government must never be allowed to express favored treatment for one faith over others. That’s unconstitutional and un-American.” Americans United filed the lawsuit in June 2008 on behalf of four South Carolina 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.
Initial approval for the license plate was pushed through the South Carolina legislature with the urging and funding of recently outed Lt. Governor Andre Bauer, about whom the judge said, “Whether motivated by sincerely held Christian beliefs or an effort to purchase political capital with religious coin, the result is the same.”