Bil Browning

In God We Trust our civil liberties

Filed By Bil Browning | April 11, 2007 8:26 PM | comments

Filed in: Living, Marriage Equality, Politics, The Movement
Tags: Bruce Hetrick, civil rights, Indiana, Indianapolis Business Journal, license plates, morality, SJR-7

Bruce Hetrick has another great column in the Indianapolis Business Journal this week that you have to go read. (This link goes to the column on Hetrick's site - which is much easier to navigate.)

Echoing some of the thoughts I've been having lately, he easily melds two hot topics - SJR-7 and our new "Separation of church and what?!" license plates - into a much more coherent and sharp reflection than I was coming up with. Perhaps it's my own innate cynicism rearing it's ugly head, but is anyone really that surprised that those stupid blue and white plates are spreading like wildfire? And am I the only person out there not really shocked that our butts were spared an amendment not because one party believed in our civil rights, but because of political and business interests? In Indiana? Where hate crimes laws are considered too liberal?

You have to read the entire article to get the connection, so I'll just toss you a couple of my favorite quotes about each point:

I suppose some plate buyers are making political or religious statements. But I have another theory: Indiana's standard plate is ugly -- a washed out farm scene with an unreadable Web address instead of a catchy slogan.

By contrast, "In God We Trust" plates feature rich colors, a patriotic flag and a legible, well-known tagline. In today's society, design rules, so many motorists will choose the prettier plate.

...It's not government's job to enforce sectarian dictates. On the contrary, Indiana's Constitution states, "no preference shall be given, by law, to any creed, religious society or mode of worship."

Prior to the House committee vote last week, more than 1,000 people rallied at the Statehouse in support of the anti-gay marriage amendment. These citizens want to defy Indiana's Bill of Rights and enjoy, on religious grounds, a privilege denied to a subset of their fellow citizens.


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Zach Adamson | April 11, 2007 9:27 PM

I actually read that in the IBJ.. Great article. One thing that I have noticed... a vast majority of the folks with the Holier than thou Plates certainly dont behave like Christians ought. I cant tell you how many times Ive been cut off by one. In the ghetto where I live many of the cars that drive up and down the street at 2am with the boom boom base also sport the new "look at what a good Christian I am" plates. Kinda like the drug dealer that roams the area in an old police car with a DARE plate on the back.
I wonder if we could come up with a plate that would appropriately show off our progressive values.. We could make it free too, since Im sure it would also be too hard to choose the right group to give the money. Lets all think of how to start that process. I could really go for a picture of the statue of Liberty with the big "We" from We the People with a nice blue back ground or the such.. I think we have to do a petition.. could call the BMV and find out.
One point that I will echo, is that they sure are better lookin than the regular plates.. although thats no great feat..

Allen J. Lopp | April 11, 2007 10:36 PM

What makes this argument so hopeless is that it is not really religion versus non-religion, or "freedom of religion" versus "freedom from religion" --- it appears to me to have gotten successfully framed as, more specifically, theism versus atheism.

And even though I may now be a theist, there was a period in my life when I was an agnostic/atheist, and I do believe that Americans have the right to be atheists without being made to feel like second-class citizens.

Speaking as one who thinks that separation of church and state is a good idea, and seeing this as an improper consequence of the unpopularity of atheism, I suppose that if I can tolerate "In God We Trust" on our currency, and must tolerate "one nation under God" in our Pledge of Allegiance, then I feel like the battle is lost if I wish to complain about "In God We Trust" on our license plates.

On the other hand, I have never had to stare at "In God We Trust" on a silver dollar coin while creeping in stop-and-go traffic for four hours.

Somehow, the offering of this license plate seems particularly pernicious. It really does feel like a government-sponsored bumper sticker meant to show which side of the culture wars one is fighting on. Perhaps it should say, "In Political Polarization We Trust".

Pernicious it is indeed, and untimely ... for since the Civil War, if there was ever a time when we needed to strive to return to "E Pluribus, Unum" ... it is now.

I actually don't think that they're better looking... "rich colors"? Really? It's just blue, like something that came off of an old video game console that could only handle 4 colors. Or maybe one of those old Apple II-G monitors that were only blue and white, and black was no color.

But I agree w/ Zach as I was just thinking about that this evening. One of those people with a blue plate got in front of me on Meridien, and she changed lanes and then changed back and then changed again and then was back again, and then turned off onto the same road and couldn't maintain a constant speed, all of this w/i like 3 minutes... Maybe that'd be a good question for tomorrow since I'm curious about other people's driving experiences.

Also, dont be fooled be the people at the BMV; they seem very willing to give these out, ephasizing they don't cost anything extra. My partner wasn't paying a lot of attention and brought one home one morning last week. Needless to say I freaked out; to me that would be like being a jew and driving around in a Benz with a swastika vanity plate!

His neice and I managed to convince him to take that thing back - I even offered to pay the extra $49.00 to get the plate that supports the arts, at least the money to that goes to a better place than being a roving billboard for the religious right! They did take the plate back, which I was surprised, I figured we would be stuck driving around with that hideous thing for the next two years, how embarrassing!!

So word to the wise, don't let those people at the BVM talk you into taking one of those right-wing, agenda advertisments, they're tacky looking anyway!!

Just a reminder...

For those folks irritated by the new plates, you can always enter this week's bilerico contest. Just send an e-mail to a friend letting them know that the To Your Health plate benefits the Indiana AIDS Fund and other health organizations and copy me on the e-mail. You'll be entered to win 2 free tickets to Spotlight 2007!

More info here.

Jen Jorczak | April 12, 2007 11:34 AM

As I've complained about this to people, I've heard from many who just assume that the plate is the new state plate that everyone's required to get, because they don't have to pay extra.

Full disclosure: I'm the niece mentioned in the comment above, and my uncle tells me the woman at the BMV just handed him the Godplate without asking whether or not he wanted it, and it didn't occur to him to question it--which he probably would have had there been even a nominal charge to cover the cost the BMV incurred to press it.

And speaking of the cost, did anyone read Tuesday's AI post on how much money the state is losing on these Godplates?