The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

(202) 466-3234
Joe Conn
Rob Boston
Sandhya Bathija

Americans United Applauds Federal Court Ruling Against South Carolina's 'Christian' License Plate

Federal Judge Blocks Issuance of 'I Believe' Automobile Tag Featuring Cross and Stained-Glass Church Window


A federal judge today ruled that the state of South Carolina may not
issue a special "Christian" license plate featuring a cross, a
stained-glass window and the words "I Believe."

Americans United for Separation of Church and State, which sponsored
the litigation to stop issuance of the plate, hailed the decision.

"The 'I Believe' license plate is a clear example of government
favoritism toward one religion," said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive
director of Americans United. "The court drove home an important point:
South Carolina officials have no business meddling in religious

U.S. District Judge Cameron McGowan Currie today issued a preliminary injunction
forbidding the state to issue or manufacture the plates. She also
ordered the state to inform people who requested the plates that they
will not be available and to remove information about the plates from
the state Web site. Currie will release a written opinion on Monday.

Americans United brought the Summers v. Adams legal
challenge on behalf of four local 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.

In legal briefs, AU asserted that the "I Believe" license plate was
unlike other specialty tags offered by the state. The measure
authorizing the special plates was passed unanimously by both houses of
the legislature, with the active support of Lt. Gov. Andre Bauer.

Americans United also pointed out that some legislators openly
admitted that they would not vote for similar plates for minority

Asked by a reporter if he would support a license plate for Islam,
Rep. Bill Sandifer replied, "Absolutely and positively no.... I would not
because of my personal belief, and because I believe that wouldn't be
the wish of the majority of the constituency in this house district."

Said AU Legal Director Ayesha N. Khan, "The 'I Believe' license
plate sends the message that South Carolina has a favored religion.
That's one message the state is not permitted to transmit."

Khan argued the case in Columbia before Judge Currie, assisted by AU
Madison Fellow Elizabeth J. Stevens. Aaron J. Kozloski of Capitol
Counsel, a Columbia, S.C. law firm, served as local counsel.

Americans United is a religious liberty watchdog group based in Washington, D.C. Founded in 1947, the organization educates Americans about the importance of church-state separation in safeguarding religious freedom.