Monday April 28, 2008
Ahh, Florida legislature, how we love thee. Just in the last year you’ve screwed us out of having our votes counted, debated what can hang from the back of a truck, and now this: the good folks in Tallahassee are considering the ‘I Believe’ license plate.
Now, this is an easy opportunity to engage in a little open Christian-bashing — and believe me, I’ll get into that in a second — but let’s consider the central argument against the plate. Sayeth Howard Simon, executive director of the ACLU of Florida,
“[it] sends a message that Florida is essentially a Christian state” and, second, gives the “appearance that the state is endorsing a particular religious preference.”
Well no, it doesn’t do that. Florida has some 200 different specialty tags. Does anyone think the state legislature in any meaningful way “endorses” the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Florida Memorial University, or NASCAR? Of course not. What we have here is the highly dubious enterprise of the state raising revenue through its vehicle licensing arm. You can question the whole enterprise, but letting it go for the last 200 plates and then suddenly deciding that this one is somehow extra-contemptible is absurd. Of course there is no shortage of folks ready to do just that. But sorry, the state isn’t forcing anyone to get this plate or making it the default choice. And a quick glance at the list of current specialty tags makes it clear that yes, this plate will soon be followed by plates for a plethora of other religions, and maybe even one for us atheists (several folks have suggested a Flying Spaghetti Monster plate). The state’s policy has been clear: it’ll print a plate if it thinks more then a couple of dozen people are interested. No sane person would infer any sort of approval.
There are certain areas where the state should draw the line. I’m personally still horrified every time I see the “Choose Life” plate. Does one of the most agonizingly troubled moral debates of our time need to be reduced to a license plate? Should the Florida Transportation department be used as a revenue collection agency for assholes who harass pregnant women? Don’t I have a right not to be reminded of abortions of all things, when I drive down the road? By any reasonable, objective, standard this plate is a universe more offensive then some silly deceleration of faith.
Oh, about those Christians. Well, honestly: what can you say about folks who want to proclaim their religious belief through so tacky a means? Have you guys read the bible? You know it wants you to stone adulterers and gays to death, right? You’re cool with that. You know your precious pope is helping the cause of AIDS by opposing condom distribution in Sub-Saharan Africa, right? What, you don’t support those things? So, the bible is the word of God or is it not? Yeah… I believe there is a word for you: hypocrite. (That’d make a good license plate!)
As for the rest of us, let’s take a deep breath and go with it, as well as with the other religious plates that are sure to follow. The “endorsement” is non-existent, and remember that separation between church and state is a balance. It says that you trust in God on your money, after all.comments powered by Disqus