Newly approved religious license plates are now under legal fire in South Carolina.
Americans United for Separation of Church (AU) and State filed a lawsuit Thursday against the state, claiming its approval of license plates with a cross and "I Believe" on them violates the First Amendment.
The suit was filed on behalf of two Christian pastors and the Hindu American Foundation.
"I do believe these 'I Believe' plates will not see the light of day because the courts, I'm confident, will see through this," said Rev. Barry Lynn, executive director of AU.
South Carolina lawmakers approved the license plate June 5 and Gov. Mark Sanford let the bill become law without his signature since the state already permits private groups to make license plates for any cause.
The decision has since drawn debate, even though the first plate has yet to be produced by the DMV.
House Speaker Bobby Harrell said the plates were meant to satisfy requests by residents wanting ways to express their faith.
"I think this has less to do with the First Amendment and more to do with their disdain for religion generally," Harrell said.
Another pastor involved in the lawsuit, retired Methodist Rev. Thomas Summers, said the plate "really is divisive and creates the type of religious discord I've devoted my life to healing."
Rev. Robert Knight of Charleston agreed, saying that the license plates cheapened Christianity's message.
'As an evangelical Christian, I don't think civil religion enhances the Christian religion. It compromises it.," Knight said. " That's the fundamental irony. It's very shallow from a Christian standpoint."
Americans United wants a judge to stop South Carolina from making the plates and rule the law allowing them unconstitutional.
In the meantime, a spokesperson said the DMV will proceed with the license plates until told to do otherwise.
Source: Associated Press