“In god we trust” License Plates

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In addition to placing “In God We Trust” in public schools and on other government buildings, Project Blitz also aims to pass bills that give motorists the option of a license plate that includes “In God We Trust.”

“In God We Trust” license plates are already available in 20 states. In some states, such as Tennessee after its 2017 bill, the phrase will appear on every license plate.

Not only are these bills divisive, they also frequently help fund religious groups without requiring transparency or oversight. This creates a situation ripe for abuse with the state aiding and abetting this activity.

 

Current Status

“In God We Trust” license plates are already available in 20 states: Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, West Virginia, and Wisconsin. The trend is quickly spreading—between 2016 and 2017, IGWT license plate bills were passed in Pennsylvania, Utah, Tennessee, and West Virginia.

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These bills are divisive. They invariably draw fierce local debates over the motto and its placement. They have inspired academic law journals to challenge their constitutionality. They are routinely passed on party-line votes amidst fierce objections, including one state passing the bill despite the state’s attorney general concluding the bill was “constitutionally suspect.”

These bills, and other religious license plate bills, typically charge an extra fee for the plates and raise money for religious organizations. For instance, a failed 2017 Michigan bill would have created license plates that include the phrase “Choose Life,” with proceeds from the sales of those plates going to religious anti-abortion organizations, including so-called “crisis pregnancy centers.”

Relation to Project Blitz

Advocates for Project Blitz are very clear about their agenda.

Bills mandating these license plates are easy to pass, and as such, they are the low-hanging fruit acquired first. Once these bills become law, Project Blitz intends to build on that momentum to unleash even more harmful attacks on the freedom of religion.

The truth is that these bills are an attempt by Christian nationalists to further their false version of American history and impose their religion on everyone else. They also represent an obvious effort by these special interests to provide funds to religious organizations without transparency or accountability for each license plate purchased. For this reason, many of these bills have been struck down as unconstitutional. Taxpayers should not have to pay to defend a law that is neither necessary nor constitutional.

History of Corruption

Frequently, the funds raised by the sale of these license plates are provided to religious groups without transparency or oversight. This creates a situation ripe for abuse and, by facilitating the donations through the purchase of license plates, makes the state a party to that abuse.

In Florida, the In God We Trust Foundation sponsored that state’s IGWT license plates and promised to give all proceeds to the children of fallen first responders. The plates have resulted in donations of more than $500,000, none of which was distributed to the children. This prompted an investigation by multiple state agencies, an audit, and the state eventually asked federal officials to get involved. In the end, the state audit determined that the In God We Trust Foundation used $388,522.07 “for purposes not authorized in Florida Statute.”

In Idaho, a 16-year veteran of the Idaho Legislature and one-term U.S. Congressman Bill Sali, proposed an "In God We Trust" specialty plate that would have raised funds for the American Heritage Foundation, an organization formed by Sali and his wife that would have worked to educate about “foundational principles and history of the United States.” Sali believes that the U.S. was founded on Christian principles that were derived from scripture. The legislature rejected Sali’s unseemly attempt to enrich himself and Sali let his foundation dissolve.