Monday, July 14, 2008

The Image of a Cross on a License Plate

In this article from July 13, 2008, published on
Separation of Church and the DMV

the author criticizes the unanimous vote by the South Carolina legislature to allow an optional license plate with a cross, a church window, and the words "I believe" on it. To summarize the article's opinion using one of its own sentences, "Those kinds of messages are precisely what the First Amendment's Establishment Clause prevents."

If one looks at the actions of the Founders who wrote the First Amendment and ratified it, many actions point to the fact that they had a much different perspective on the meaning of "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion..." It is doubtful the leaders at the time would have considered a symbolic license plate design akin to establishing a religion.

Consider the following, which is quoted from the Library of Congress web site:

(Article about the Proposed Seal for the United States)
On July 4, 1776, Congress appointed Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson and John Adams "to bring in a device for a seal for the United States of America." Franklin's proposal adapted the biblical story of the parting of the Red Sea. Jefferson first recommended the "Children of Israel in the Wilderness, led by a Cloud by Day, and a Pillar of Fire by night. . . ." He then embraced Franklin's proposal and rewrote it. Jefferson's revision of Franklin's proposal was presented by the committee to Congress on August 20. Although not accepted these drafts reveal the religious temper of the Revolutionary period. Franklin and Jefferson were among the most theologically liberal of the Founders, yet they used biblical imagery for this important task.

It should be noted that Jefferson is the one usually being quoted when "separation of church and state" is raised. Study of Jefferson's action as President and governor of Virginia can reveal that we mis-use his metaphor today. Consider the opinion of former Chief Justice Renquist:

"there is simply no historical foundation for the proposition that the framers intended to build a wall of separation. ... The wall of separation between church and state is a metaphor based on bad history, a metaphor which has proved useless as a guide to judging, and it should be frankly and explicitly abandoned. ... History must judge whether it was the Father of our country, Washington, plus the majority of the House of Representatives and the Senate who were correct in their understanding of the First Amendment, or whether it is a majority of the Court today."

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

see it on YouTube

G rated!