Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Indiana License Plates Are Unconstitutional


The license plates, like our currency, say "In God We Trust." I'll give you four tries to guess who's upset about it ... A-C-L-U.

Fox News:

The "In God We Trust" license plates that have quickly become a fixture on Indiana roads came under a legal attack Monday claiming the law authorizing them is unconstitutional for favoring that message over those on other plates.

The lawsuit filed in Marion Superior Court claims the state Bureau of Motor Vehicles gives preferential treatment to motorists wanting the plates, which also feature the American flag, because they don't have to pay the $15 administrative fee that the agency collects on sales of most other Indiana specialty plates.

Ok, at first glance it appears that the lawsuit was filed because of discrimination of other license plates. Not the fact that "In God We Trust" was on the plates.

The BMV charges the administrative fees in addition to other costs of up to $25 whose proceeds support the causes of the groups or universities promoted by other specialty plates.

"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 ACLU is upset that the plate makes a statement for free, and there isn't a charge associated with this plate like with other plates. Usually the money collected from specialty plates goes to benefit that plate's cause.

Unlike other license plates that promote ideas or causes such as the Indianapolis Colts, the arts and service groups, the "In God We Trust" plates do not benefit any faith group or other organization, Burton said.

"It is not a special-interest plate," he said. "It is a stock item. It's the motto of the country. It's on the dollar bill."

Case closed right? If the plate is not supporting a cause, and is simply offered as an alternative to the standard plate ... why should the state be required to charge for it?

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."

So now the hippies are upset because they have to pay a fee for their special plate, but patriots don't. My state has offered your choice of standard plates in the past for no additional cost, and this appears to be no different at all. The state should be applauded for not sticking it to regular folks in an attempt to money grab. Instead they get sued because 10 people approached the ACLU to complain.

Get this! The "In God We Trust" plate may actually be saving the BMV money.

Cook of the BMV said the "In God We Trust" plates cost the agency $3.69 each to produce, compared with $3.19 each for the standard plate with the Web address.

However, since the BMV is replacing the latter with a new standard plate in 2008, the popularity of the "In God We Trust" plate might result in agency savings next year. Customers receiving the "In God We Trust" plates this year will need to receive only renewal stickers the next four years rather than new license plates, Cook said

Could it be that we actually have some forward thinking fiscal responsibility somewhere? With the added bonus of a feel good license plate to boot.


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