Thursday, April 24, 2008

Floridian Faith-based License Plates

Florida state legislation announced this week that it has plans to begin producing vanity license plates featuring a large golden cross in front of a stained glass window with the words, “I Believe,” running across the bottom of the plate. If it does so, it would be the first state to offer an option which features a specific religious faith. This, of course, has many up in arms and will undoubtedly be met with some form of protest, at least, and a slew of anti-defamatory legal action.


As it stands, the state currently offers more than a hundred license plates supporting everything from universities to sports teams to any of the numerous leisure activities for which it is known. To add one more which lets a devout member of a given faith to display that devotion seems a small allowance.

Before taking up arms against this oppressive gesture, or against those opposed to it, however, we must ask ourselves why it is that this is such a hot-button issue, even in its conceptual stages. We are a country built upon notions of freedom of religion and freedom of expression, two ideals which this plate solidly represents. Given that, there is no reason why it should be offensive to anyone. It does not seek to proselytize and if your faith is weak enough that you feel that you will be converted by the image of the symbol of another’s faith, then you ought to spend less time protesting what amounts to a logo and more time figuring out where you lost your way.

Where it does break down, though, is that it calls only for the creation of a Christian plate, rather than a religious line of plates. The country has shown a recent trend of religious intolerance when it comes to governmental processes and procedures, such as a last year’s denial by the military to allow pagan soldiers who were killed in Iraq to have a pentacle on their memorial headstones amongst the crosses and stars of David. Were the Florida government to make this small amendment, all would be well and they would have little solid ground on which to form a protest.

The irony, of course, is that those Christians who would stand up in support of this plate, forming the inevitable counter-protest, are also those most likely to stand against the inclusion of other religions. There is a need amongst humans to belong to something larger than we are. What we have lost sight of, or perhaps what we have never truly understood, is that we do not have to define our unity with the exclusion of others, be it when talking about something as powerful as a chosen faith or as a simple as a license plate.

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