Christian Tags Draw Criticism in SC

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Christians in South Carolina can soon display their faith while driving, but not without criticism.

Lawmakers in the state passed a bill Thursday allowing for a new faith license plate featuring a cross and stained glass window, with the words "I Believe" across the bottom.

Though the plate has numerous supporters, some organizations are upset over the decision.

The American Civil Liberties Union and American Jewish Congress are threatening to sue South Carolina over the license plate approval.

"The whole issue here is that people are trying to get the state to endorse their religion, and that's wrong," ACLU's Dr. T. Jeremey Gunn said. "It's almost as if there's insufficient support, and they have to go to the state to get it."

Gunn is the director of the ACLU Program on Freedom of Religion and Belief.

Sen. Lawrence Grooms, who co-sponsored the bill, says there's nothing constitutionally wrong with the plate.

"We have other plates with religious symbols on them and phrases like 'In God We Trust.' Just because it's a cross, some very closed-minded people don't believe it should be on a plate," he said.

Gov. Mark Sanford let the bill pass without signing it.

"While I do, in fact, 'believe,' it is my personal view that the largest proclamation of one's faith ought to be in how one lives one's life," he wrote in a letter to the president pro tem of the state senate.

"Galatians talks of the fruit of the spirit as peace, patience, kindness, gentleness and more. If God is working in one's life, these things will say what no license plate will ever say," he added.

The plates will cost about $4 to $6 more. Sanford also told the Department of Motor Vehicles not to allow any organization to benefit from sales of license plates.

Other specialty plates offered by the state - about 200 - cost up to $70. The proceeds from those plates go to their respective sponsors.

Approval for the same "I believe" plate failed in Florida earlier this year.

Sources: Associated Press, The New York Times

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