Taking a little break from all AG AG all the time for this tidbit that came across the homefront today:
These plates are obscenely popular here in Indiana. They became available the first of the year and they have already distributed over 515,000 of them. And it's "distributed" that is the problem.
Unlike other plates, like say, those to support the troops:
or say, those who wish to support the environment:
there is no extra fee to get the "In God We Trust" plate. Therein lies the crux of the lawsuit. The ACLU argues that the state is giving preferential treatment by not charging any extra fees. So before the hysterics begin from people whining about the 'persecution' of Judeo-Christian values please inform them of this important detail. Anybody who has studied anything about the ACLU knows that their stand on religion is to avoid preferential treatment...not any goofy straw-men about eliminating religion. In fact, just today they won the right for Wiccans to place a symbol on deceased veterans' headstones.
But, back to the case at hand. Some comments about the suit itself from press reports:
"It amounts to a promotion of the plate. The plate is a statement," said ACLU-Indiana attorney Ken Falk. "There is a cost in Indiana to obtain a general specialty plate and to express oneself in that manner, but there is no cost for an ’In God We Trust’ plate."
The complaint said Studler, to express his support for Indiana’s environment, pays $40 more than normal registration fees for an "Environment" specialty plate. Of the total fee, $25 goes to a state trust to buy land for conservation and recreational purposes and the remaining $15 goes to administrative costs.
The complaint said "it is not reasonable to charge Mr. Studler administrative fees that are not assessed against persons who purchase the ’In God We Trust’ plate."
It is not accident that the plates come with no extra charge. This is not some bit player in the BMV system looking to slip a fast one by people:
The 2006 legislation creating the plates specified the state could charge no more for them than the cost of its standard plates.
Another, minor, ingredient to this fee structure is that the "In God We Trust" plates actually cost $.50 more per plate to produce...so the state is subsidizing the production of this plate.
Personally, if the state legislature wants to authorize a plate like this I don't have a huge problem with it. My problem comes in when you put it under the same rules as the plates for "everybody". If someone wants to fork over a few dollars for it, more power to 'em. Not requiring extra fees is more than tacit preferential treatment for religion.