The Chattanooga Times Free Press reported that the optional license plate with the slogan “In God We Trust” now appears on three of every five cars in Tennessee with non-specialty plates.
This news reminded me of a time in Georgia when efforts to allow residents to help choose a new car tag design were bungled, requiring a redo.
Here’s what I wrote when that happened in 2011:
The State of Georgia has made a big, unnecessary mess out of launching a new car tag design.
The state’s Department of Revenue screwed up the contest by displaying some of the final-eight tag designs with “In God We Trust” at the bottom (where most tags have a decal indicating the driver’s county of residence).
So, the governor, when he was supposed to be announcing the winning design, said that the state will let Georgians vote again among these eight designs — this time without confusion over whether the tag will have “In God We Trust” at the bottom.
That sticker, he added, will be available for an additional one-dollar fee to those who want it.
Such inability to conduct a simple contest about an unimportant matter compared to all of the challenges facing government officials today does nothing to raise public confidence.
But the public (including a whole bunch of professing Christians) owns the blame for making this into yet another unnecessary battle in a divisive culture war that does nothing to advance faith or freedom.
Those who crusade over religion-based slogans on license plates often miss the point. Only individuals, not nations or states, have the capacity to trust in God.
No matter how many preachers and politicians (and fake historians like David Barton) tell you otherwise, the founders of this nation showed brilliance and foresight in honing our constitutional guarantees of the free expression of faith without any coercion of religion.
The license plate fiasco provided yet another example of misplaced attention and energy on the part of many Christians. Such an effort can only be seen as either a desire to have one’s own faith endorsed by the government or a desire to push at least a vague statement of faith on others.
Think about this: a typical automobile has more square footage of painted body surfaces than I’m willing to measure, plus a couple of bumpers and a good bit of glass.
Yet, some of my fellow Georgians chose to squabble over and squawk about a 3/4-inch-tall adhesive strip that is just six inches long.
The only government-issued part of a personal automobile is a 72-square-inch license plate —unless you have a little emission inspection sticker on your windshield too.
With all the hard-earned, time-proven religious liberty that has served this nation well for more than two centuries, we are free to express our faith all over our vehicles.
So, why in God’s great world would anyone be concerned over a tiny six-inch sticker on a 6-inch by 12-inch government-issued license plate?
There are much bigger and better ways to express one’s religious beliefs in public — if that is really one’s concern — right there on the car, truck or van. Have at it!
Stick “Jesus has my wheel,” “Prevent truth decay, read the Bible,” “I’m a Christian soccer mom” or “Jesus is coming (Everyone look busy)” on your rear bumper.
On a door, stick “In case of rapture this car will be unmanned” — or the alternate, “After the rapture can I have your car?” (Note: “can” should be “may”).
Or apply “My boss is a Jewish carpenter” — or the later “My carpenter is a Jewish boss” — on the front bumper. But only if you choose.
Or on the trunk, stick “Coexist” or “Predestined to be an Arminian” or “W.W.J.D.” or “Honk if you love Jesus; text if you want to meet Him.”
Or perhaps apply one somewhere that reads “Hate is not a family value” or “It’s not a religion; it’s a relationship” or “Jesus loves me and my tattoos.”
Or maybe “When the trumpet sounds, I’m outta’ here!” or “The Spanish inquisition was a faith-based initiative” or “Do you follow Jesus this close?” (Note: “close” should be “closely”).
Or, if denominationally inclined, “Lutheran — because God forgives sinners.”
If your car is big enough, slap on all of them. Or none. Put whichever, wherever and whenever you wish.
Dangle a rosary from your rearview mirror and put a bobbling saint on the dashboard. It’s all up to you.
If you live near an airport, you can even add “Jesus loves the hell out of you” to your car roof.
Attach whichever version of the Darwin versus the fish emblem that suits your philosophy and car trim. Or let your religious expressions evolve over time.
Stick it where? Wherever you wish.
Just grant everyone else the same freedom of religious expression — for that is the American way.
Executive editor / publisher at Good Faith Media.