For Immediate Release
Proposed 'Christian' License Plates in Florida May Spark Lawsuit
Americans United Warns Legislature Not to Mandate Car Tags Featuring Cross and Crucified Head of Jesus
WASHINGTON - Americans United for Separation of Church and State has urged the
Florida Senate to reject a bill creating two "Christian" license plates
for state motorists and warned that a lawsuit may result if the measure
SB 642 mandates issuance of a plate depicting the crucified head of Jesus
complete with a crown of thorns. It also mandates a second plate
featuring a large cross, a stained-glass church window and the words "I
"These plates clearly violate the Constitution and basic fairness,"
said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, Americans United executive director. "It's
wrong for the legislature to favor one faith over others. If this bill
passes, it is almost certain to provoke a lawsuit.
"I am frankly shocked that any legislator would think these plates
are constitutionally acceptable," Lynn continued. "It is deeply
offensive when officials play political games with the sacred symbols
of any faith."
Americans United, a Washington, D.C.-based civil liberties group,
has successfully blocked issuance of an "I Believe" license plate in
South Carolina. A federal judge ordered the state to temporarily stop
any steps toward issuing the plate and indicated that local clergy
represented by Americans United will prevail in their lawsuit.
In its letter
to the Florida Senate, Americans United asserted that state blessing
for two license plates prominently displaying the symbols and images of
the majority religion "would offend not only Floridians who are members
of minority faiths, but also Christians who believe it is inappropriate
for the state to issue these kinds of license plates, because they
co-opt the religious symbols, images, and beliefs of their faith for
the state's benefit, thereby demeaning those sacred images."
The April 26 letter was signed by Americans United State Legislative
Counsel Dena Sher; Rabbi Merrill Shapiro, president of the Flagler
County AU Chapter; and the Rev. Dr. Harry Parrott Jr., president of the
Clay County AU Chapter.
The Florida Senate may vote on the license-plate measure as early as today.
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.