Just finished watching Don Lemon interview Kathy Miller of the Texas Freedom Network along with (apparently) Jonathan Saenz of the Liberty Institute. The issue was the new specialty license plate that posts the motto “ONE STATE UNDER GOD” and depicts the Calvary Hill three crosses motif representing the Crucifixion.
The Texas DMV board recently approved the design by a 4-3 vote, and it is, like all specialty plates, available by special request.
Saenz asserted that Miller’s objections go against our tradition of religious freedom. Also, he noted that other designs depicting college affiliation had been found to be unobjectionable. He noted that drivers have the freedom to express their religious preference on their cars and elsewhere.
Miller stated the problem was not with expression of religious preference but with that preference being appended to a Texas State instrument, the license plate. She asked, in vain, whether Texas should be allowed a specialty plate objecting to religion.
The problem is, Miller mis-argued her case. She ignored Saenz’s continued reiteration that the motif and the slogan were very popular in Texas and represented Texas mainstream values. Saenz had also pointed out that the Texas legislature had approved the “under God” slogan by a wide vote margin with both Democrats and Republicans voting in favor.
What Miller should have stressed is that popularity does not matter, and legislative and DMV board action action does not matter. Saenz is very comfortable with the assurance that no contrary motif and no motto objecting to God would ever be approved. The legal problem is this is exactly the action covered by the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the Constitution.
The Establishment Clause has the wording “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion.” The Fourteenth Amendment extended this prohibition to state and local governments. What the Texas legislature has done and what the DMV board has done is to make a law respecting an establishment of religion.
The Texas DMV can remedy its action by providing specialty plates to address all sentiments regarding religion, effectively nullifying its action of granting favor to one specific religion. Forestalling a flood of comments to this blog informing me that this would be completely impracticable to implement I state now that this would be completely impracticable to implement due to the problem of economies of scale. The non-recurring cost of providing a specialty plate for Christians would be amortized over several thousand plates, while the cost of setting up a plate with the motto “ONE STATE UNDER DURESS” would be shared by two Texas drivers. And that would only be if I can persuade my lovely wife to order a plate for her car.
Saenz is gong to argue that much the same holds for the college affiliate plates. However, the Texas DMV is not going to approve a specialty plate for the University of Paluxy, which cost would be amortized over at most one or two Paluxy residents who enjoy a good joke as much as I do. Saenz is comfortable in the knowledge that the non-Christian minority, diverse as it is, could never be seen as deserving of a specialty plate. For him, in numbers there is right.
The Bill of Rights was put in place exactly to protect those who do not have the numbers to vote their protection against government action. The Texas DMV action is exactly the government saying “Our religion is the right one, and you can just go to you know where.”
People, we get the government we deserve. Shame on us.