Tuesday's Indianapolis Star reported that the ACLU has filed a lawsuit on behalf of Mark Studler regarding Indiana's popular "In God We Trust" license plate. They brought the lawsuit challenging a law allowing Hoosier motorists to acquire "In God We Trust" plates without paying the $15.00 administration fee assessed to other generally available specialty plates.
For Mr. Studler the issue concerns a matter of equality. As he suggested, "Everybody should either have to pay the fee or they should all be free." I do wonder how far he is willing to go with that suggestion. After all, according to the Indiana Bureau of Moter Vehicles, there are other specialty plates which are also exempted from the fee: "Disabled American Veteran," "Ex-POW," "Hoosier Veteran," "National Guard," "Pearl Harbor Survivor," "Purple Heart," and "Support Our Troops" plates. Interestingly, according to the article, Ken Falk (legal director for the ACLU of Indiana) suggested that the "In God We Trust" plate is the only generally available specialty plate exempt from any fee. So on a whim, I checked with the Indiana BMV to verify his claim. I wanted to determine, for example, if the "Support Our Troops" plate is available to the general public. Indeed, it is.
Which raises the question, "If the Mr. Studler and the ACLU are as concerned about fairness regarding license plate fees as they claim to be, why not file similar suits against those who would purchase "Support Our Troops" plates?" Sadly, this incongruity furthers the perception that the ACLU is merely attempting to eradicate one's freedom of religious expression in the public square under the guise of the noble-sounding crusade to maintain the "wall of separation" between church and state. Perhaps they should change their name from the ACLU to the ASCLU (American Selective Civil Liberties Union). Are not civil liberties to be protected for all Americans, no matter what one's religious persuasion might be?
In one of the comments posted on the IndyStar.com site in response to this lawsuit, a reader opines,
Perhaps religious individuals should be more focused on issues like abuse or hunger, rather than on defending their right to a free license plate on which they can advertise their religion.
While there is considerable merit to that suggestion, one could just as easily suggest that there are presumably more substantitive issues the ACLU could be pursuing other than regulating license plate fees in the name of civil liberties. But, more importantly, what that IndyStar.com reader fails to appreciate is that this issue is not about getting a free license plate. Right or wrong in the minds of many people, this seemingly-insignificant issue is simply one more step on the inevitable journey toward a thoroughly secular society.
I would certainly resist the alarmist mentality, as if the inevitable erosion of societal morality hinges on one license plate slogan. But as Edward Gibbon reminds us, the Roman empire did not crumble in a day. And no matter the issue, it is the series of forgettable accommodations over a long period of time that will eventually bring any culture to ruin.