Texas DMV considering ‘One State Under God’ license plates
While the most controversial proposal before the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles board is still that license plate featuring a Confederate flag, this week marked the end of the first public comment period for another potentially divisive design: three crosses on a hill, with the slogan, “One State Under God.”
As of Monday, the DMV was still soliciting input on the design at its e-View site, where the public is invited to support the plate, or say, “I don’t care for it.” Today, though, that window has closed, and the plate goes next to the DMV board for a vote.
DMV spokeswoman Kim Sue Lia Perkes said the design came to the DMV through a two-year-old process that’s unique to Texas, an agreement with MyPlates.com, which helps outside groups propose plate designs to advertise a company or a cause. It’s also how Texas got its Dr Pepper and Mighty Fine Burger license plates.
The Sons of Confederate Veterans plates were introduced by a more traditional procedure, with an endorsement from Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson, while the state’s “Choose Life” plates were created by the Texas Legislature.
Under its deal with the state, MyPlates.com works out its own deals with plate sponsors to determine a price and the profit split, Perkes said, after the state gets the first $8 from the sale. The DMV board will consider pretty much any license plate design passed along from MyPlates.com. “The only thing that stops a plate from going before the board is it didn’t meet the readability or legibility standards,” Perkes said. “When it’s slated for a board meeting, anyone is welome to come out and give comments on the plate.”
MyPlates.com spokeswoman Kim Drummond said the company’s main mission is to create a wide variety of plates that’ll appeal to the broadest audience possible. “We find stuff that we think, OK, this’ll look cool on a car,” she said. It’s a wide-open market, she said, with less than one percent of Texas drivers sporting custom plates.
Drummond said they haven’t proposed any plates that met with controversy — apart from predictable grousing from Texas fans when the state began selling Oklahoma Sooners plates — but she said no matter what, if you don’t like the plates, you don’t have to buy them.
“Think about this: It is a revenue stream that’s a discretionary purpose, how do you argue with it?” Drummond said.
That’s the argument the plate’s sponsors make too.
Matt Rocco sits on the board of License Plates of Texas, LLC, which owns MyPlates.com. He’s also a board member at the Glory Gang Ministry in Nacogdoches, and said he introduced the license plate idea to other board members as a way of raising money for the charity, a Christian outreach group for at-risk kids. The group’s name does not appear on the license plate design.
“We understand not everybody‘s gonna be excited about it, but it’s not a state mandated plate,” Rocco said. “If you don’t like it, then don’t buy it.”
Because he sits on both the License Plates of Texas and the Glory Gang boards, Rocco said he wasn’t part of the profit-splitting talks to avoid the appearance of a conflict of interest. “I don’t think the Glory Gang is getting any more or any less than any other organization,” he said.
Rocco said the Glory Gang buses about 400 kids from around the East Texas city, feeds them, addresses their “tangible and spiritual needs,” he said, giving them school supplies, clothes, and a positive Christian message. All told, he said, the group serves 7,000 kids, 85 percent of them from poor households.
“This organization is making a difference, and there is not enough money,” he said. “People can argue right or wrong, but that’s not the point. This organization is focused on the hope that can only be provided by Jesus Christ.”
But Barry Lynn, executive director of Americans United for the Separation of Church and State, told the Texas Independent that if the government is producing the plate — even if it’s just an option — it shouldn’t be promoting religion at all. His group succeeded in getting a similar license plate — a cross with the words “I believe” — blocked in South Carolina.
“No state ought to be involved in the promotion of religion on an officially produced government license plate,” Lynn told the Texas Independent. “If people want to make a statement about their Christian faith, that’s what bumper stickers are for.” In South Carolina, Lynn said, even those who weren’t major advocates of church-state separation disapproved of the plates in South Carolina.
Here, though, Rocco points out the “One State Under God” language was lifted directly from the Texas pledge of allegiance, to which the phrase was added by the Texas Legislature in 2007. (Lynn and AU opposed that measure as well.) Nor would the plate be Texas’ first to include the word “God,” thanks to the “God Bless Texas” and “God Bless America” plates available today.
“There’s people in Texas that are passionate about their faith, and this plate may appeal to them. If it doesn’t appeal to them, then don’t buy the plate. That’s how I feel,” Rocco said. “Based on the market research that was done on this plate, it’s something that should be popular.”
Mary Tuma contributed reporting to this story.
My grandparents had to flee Northern Ireland after death threats because of conflicts between Christian Catholics and Christian Protestants. She was Protestant, and he was Catholic. When I became of age, I volunteered and joined the Army, and I served as an 11B Infantryman. Most of my time in the field was in squad or platoon size operations. When there were conflicts between the South Vietnamese Buddhists and Christian, we would have discussions about what we were fighting for. It always came back to the “Bill of Rights”. To me the most important was “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…”.
What else did our Founding Fathers have to say about religion?
“Question with boldness even the existence of a god.” – Thomas Jefferson (letter to Peter Carr, 10 August 1787):
“All natural institutions of churches, whether Jewish, Christian, or Turkish, appear to me no other than human inventions, set up to terrify and enslave mankind, and monopolize power and profit.” Thomas Paine, The Age of Reason;
“Religion and government will both exist in greater purity, the less they are mixed together”, James Madison.
“Lighthouses are more helpful than Churches”, Benjamin Franklin.
Our Founding Fathers never intended for the United States to be a religious nation.
[...] officially produced government license plate,” Americans United Executive Director Barry W. Lynn told the Texas Independent. “If people want to make a statement about their Christian faith, that’s [...]
Our forefathers never intended for our nation to be a religious one, but a Christian one. One built on the
foundation of the Word of God. They flew from religious nations (the letter of the law killeth), not from
a Loving God
[...] first wrote about the plate in October, for the American Independent. Matt Rocco, one of the guys behind the design, told me [...]