Americans United for Separation of Church and State today filed a lawsuit in federal district court on behalf of several religious leaders and a religious organization whose First Amendment rights are violated by South Carolina’s “I Believe” license plate. The new plate features the words, “I Believe,” accompanied by a depiction of a large, bright-yellow Christian cross superimposed on a multicolored stained glass church window.
Plaintiffs in the case include 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. The Summers v. Adams lawsuit charges that the Christian plate gives preferential government treatment to one faith. It asks the court to prevent South Carolina officials from producing the plates.
“The state has clearly given preferential treatment to Christianity with this license plate,” said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, Americans United executive director. “I can’t think of a more flagrant violation of the First Amendment’s promise of equal treatment for all faiths. I believe these plates will not see the light of day.”
According to the suit, the plates violate not only separation of church and state, but freedom of speech as well. Other religions will not get their own plates nor will a “I Don’t Believe” plate be issued.