6/6/2008South Carolina: Christian License Plate Law Approved
South Carolina now offers specialty license plates both for atheists and Christians.
South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford (R) yesterday allowed legislation authorizing a Christian-themed specialty license plate to become law without his signature. This means that the state Department of Motor Vehicles may issue a controversial new "I Believe" plate that displays a cross superimposed on a stained glass window. It joins a long list of plates designed to show off a driver's support for trendy environmental causes or hobbies such as bicycling, fishing, golfing, square dancing and NASCAR.
"There's a fundamental difference between these plates and the 'I believe' tag," wrote Rob Boston, the Assistant Director of Communications of Americans United for Separation of Church and State. "South Carolina can endorse NASCAR and even name it the official state sport. It cannot legally endorse Christianity."
The state has already endorsed a plate intended to appeal to atheists. The "Secular Humanists of the Low Country" plate mimics the existing "In God We Trust" plate but substitutes that phrase with "In Reason We Trust" (view plate). Backers of the "I Believe" plate insist that a provision in the new law requiring the plate to meet all existing specialty tag guidelines means it can withstand court challenge. An attempt to pass a similar specialty plate law in Florida failed earlier this year.
Full text of new law:
South Carolina General Assembly
117th Session, 2007-2008
AN ACT TO AMEND CHAPTER 3, TITLE 56, CODE OF LAWS OF SOUTH CAROLINA, 1976, RELATING TO MOTOR VEHICLE REGISTRATION AND LICENSING BY ADDING ARTICLE 101 SO AS TO PROVIDE FOR THE ISSUANCE OF "I BELIEVE" SPECIAL LICENSE PLATES AND PROVIDE THE CIRCUMSTANCES UNDER WHICH THESE LICENSE PLATES MAY BE ISSUED.
Be it enacted by the General Assembly of the State of South Carolina:
"I Believe" special license plate
SECTION 1. Chapter 3, Title 56 of the 1976 Code is amended by adding:
'I Believe' Special License Plates
Section 56-3-10110. The Department of Motor Vehicles may issue 'I Believe' special motor vehicle license plates to owners of private motor vehicles registered in their names. The plate must contain the words 'I Believe' and a cross superimposed on a stained glass window. The biennial fee for this special license plate is the same as the fee provided in Article 5, Chapter 3 of this title. The guidelines for the production of this special license plate must meet the requirements contained in Section 56-3-8100."
SECTION 2. This act takes effect upon approval by the Governor.