4th Circuit: State Can’t Have Only ‘Choose Life’ Plates


The 4th Circuit Court of Appeals has upheld a lower court ruling that said the state of North Carolina can’t approve the offering of a “Choose Life” license plate and then refuse to approve a pro-choice license plate. That is viewpoint discrimination under the law.

[W]e agree with the district court “that sufficient private speech interests are implicated by the specialty license plates to preclude a finding of purely government speech.”….

North Carolina … laments that if it has created a forum, it “must allow all viewpoints to be heard via specialty plates.” …. This complaint seems at odds with North Carolina’s contention that its vast array of specialty plates “celebrat[es]” the “diversity of its citizen’s interests . . . .”… Apparently, North Carolina wishes to celebrate only some interests of some of its citizens— namely those with which it agrees. This, it may not do.

North Carolina then sounds the death knell for specialty plates, predicting a “flood” of “Kill The Sea Turtles” and “Children Last” plates that will force it to end its specialty plate program…. Melodrama aside, our ruling today “does not render [North] Carolina powerless to regulate its specialty license plate forum.” … But it must do so in a viewpoint-neutral fashion—which it already does, to some extent, by requiring three hundred applicants before issuing a new specialty plate. Surely such a requirement can filter out “frivolous license plate proposals” and prevent the roads from being inundated with “license plates advocating reckless pet breeding.”

The opinion of the three-judge panel was unanimous. You can read the full ruling here.

Comments

  1. vmanis1 says

    I wonder if you could get 300 people to sign up for `End Cookware Perversion’ plates? (No, I don’t know what it means.)

  2. dickspringer says

    How about “There is no God but God and Mohammed is his prophet.” North Carolina Christians should have no problem with that.

  3. Reginald Selkirk says

    North Carolina Christians should have no problem with that.

    You might be amazed at what is already allowed on North Carolina license plates. Including Auburn University, Clemson, Florida State, Knights of Columbus, Masonic Temple, Sudan Temple*, Prince Hall of Shrine*, Purdue, U. Alabama, U. South Carolina, Virginia Tech, and Watermelon.

    * I had to look these up. They are Masonic-like organizations with some seiously Arabic/Muslim imagery in their emblems.

  4. noastronomer says

    Where do I sign up for a ‘Kill The Sea Turtles’ license plate? Lazy buggers just floating along all day. Get a job!

    Mike

  5. D. C. Sessions says

    If 300 is OK, can they raise the threshold to accomplish a majoritarian veto? I trust that reproductive choice is going to be less “popular” than forced birth, anyway — even if it’s privately popular the peer pressure is going to keep the vanity plate count lower.

  6. bryanfeir says

    Heh. The Province of Ontario only really allows one motto on the plates (Yours to Discover, though you can also get Tant à Découvrir, which is the same thing in French), though you can also get one of over sixty graphics on your plate as well.

    And that isn’t the complete list of the ones that have been available; I’ve seen cars around here with a Star Trek communicator graphic on their plates; those were allowed in the late 1990s/early 2000s.

  7. says

    But it must do so in a viewpoint-neutral fashion…

    IM SICK AND TRIED OF YOU LIBERALS MAKING UP FACTS! IT IS NEUTRAL! I ASKED EVERYONE I KNOW ABOUT THE PLATES AND THEY ALL AGREE THAT ITS FINE!

     
    dickspringer “How about “There is no God but God and Mohammed is his prophet.” North Carolina Christians should have no problem with that.”
    THATS TOO LONG TO FIT ON A PLATE. JUST SHORTEN IT DOWN TO “CHOOSE LIFE” AND ITLL BE APPROVED.

  8. Phillip IV says

    “Children Last” plates that will force it to end its specialty plate program

    I’m not even sure how you could argue that “Children First” is legitimate advocacy, but “Children Last” somehow isn’t without engaging in viewpoint discrimination.

  9. jba55 says

    @2 “How about “There is no God but God and Mohammed is his prophet.” North Carolina Christians should have no problem with that.”

    I bet if you shortened it to “there is no god but god” lots of fundies would get it without realizing what it’s part of.

  10. eric says

    @5: they probably could (raise the requirement from 300 to 300,000 or something). However, that would tick off the many many special interest plate owners who have nothing to do with the abortion debate, who would likely side with the pro-choicers out of personal interest (in keeping their plates).

  11. steve84 says

    Why not just have only standard plates for everyone? People can put whatever silly stickers they want elsewhere on their car. Problem solved.

  12. Gvlgeologist, FCD says

    Florida (which has an absurdly large number of specialty plates; I think nearly 100) got the Choose Life plate several years ago, and at the time maintained that it was not specifically “Pro-Life” (AKA anti-abortion) but simply pro child, considering the problems that had been going on with child services. After it passed, of course, its proponents cheerfully admitted that it was specifically pro-life, and snidely said that if the pro-choice people wanted their own plate, that they should get it passed themselves, which of course the state gov’t refused to do.

    I’m grimly satisfied with this ruling and hope it soon is put into practice here in the gunslinger state.

  13. StevoR : Free West Papua, free Tibet, let the Chagossians return! says

    @ ^ dingojack : I reckon your suggested plate and sticker would a lot of frequent unwanted police and other attention very quickly and quite possibly get you shot within a very short span of time.

    I wouldn’t recommend trying it.

    Also I wonder why would an atheist be so keen to express support for Islam the most brutally fundamentalist and extreme of all major religions?

    The way I see it – Islam supersizes all that’s wrong with Christian fundamentalists and then some. Its the most rightwing, homophobic, intolerant and politically ideological and active of all major religions.

    Islamist stance on most all issues is the exact opposite of what’s left wing, progressive, compassionate ,intellgent, pro-science and good.

    So, seriously, why all the pro-Islam comments here?

  14. matty1 says

    If you go here you can find out how to book time on the Hubble space telescope. Do that, fix it on the furthest point possible and you may be able to make out the distance above your head that joke went.

  15. dingojack says

    Stevo – Further to Matty’s suggestion here’s a pointer: beyond MACS0647-JD. Distance ≈ 13.3Bly (Redshift ≈ 11! )

    No need to thank me, I’m happy to help.

    Dingo

  16. says

    So, seriously, why all the pro-Islam comments here?

    See Billy. Billy is christian. Billy thinks christian stuff is all good.
    See Fred. Fred is a muslim. When Fred wants to do the same thing Billy thinks is OK, Billy gets upset. Why? Because Billy is being unfair.

    See DingoJack predict how Billy will behave.
    See SteveOR completely miss the point.
    Poor SteveOR.
    See Marcus try to break it down for poor SteveOR!

  17. StevoR : Free West Papua, free Tibet, let the Chagossians return! says

    @ ^ Marcius : Thing is if the thing both Billy and Fred want to do are wrong -and people only criticise Billy for wanting it, its a bit wrong to do that.

    Or if Christian Billy wants to punch someone in the nose and Fred wants to shoot them right between the eyes then Fred is clearly being worse than Billy.

    Note that Christians don’t like people who convert to other religions or none and will criticise and shun them,. Muslims will actually murder or execute you for doing so.

    Christians want women to cover up a fair bit but Muslims want them to expose only their eyes if that.
    Christians want to ban abortion. Muslims ban women from driving and give them only half a man’s word’s worth in court.

    The piss Christ sculpture was vandalised by offended Christians and offended Christians have tried to ban or censor movies they don’t like .

    Offended Muslims rioted and went out killing and threatening to kill people when they saw a cartoon or two that upset them and actually murdered some people involved in publishing Salman Rushdie’s Satanic verses and of course, murdered Theo Van Gogh.

    See the pattern here yet Maricus?

    Muslims want what Christians want – but even more so and go to far greater more harmful extremes to get it.

    Poor Maricus Ranoum.

    See StevoR (only one ‘e’mate) try to explain yet again for poor Maricus!

  18. StevoR : Free West Papua, free Tibet, let the Chagossians return! says

    It is fair to treat equal crimes and equal threats equally.

    A serial killer is a serial killer and a vandal is a vandal.

    It isn’t fair to treat someone who has killed others and is attempting to murder you the same way you do someone who is attempting to graffiti a wall and has previously smashed windows and scrawled on neighbourhood walls.

    Both are bad, both are criminals but one is clearly much worse.

    In this metaphor, Christianity is the vandal – its not good and should not be allowed to do it but its not in the same league as the serial killer representing the Muslim.

    (NOTE This is an ANALOGY for the purpose of explanation / illustration – I’m not saying all Muslims are serial killers or all Christians are vandals. Most of each are neither.)

    Clearly the courts and police will respond very differently to the vandal and the serial killer especially if one has surrended peacefully and the other is charging at you with a raised gun.

    If someone is threatening the most extreme things and has the worst idea of what they want to do then its fair to respond equally more drastically. You don’t shoot a vandal who isn’t armed. A serial killer who is armed and posing a direct immediate threat, OTOH.

    Islam takes all the worst bits of the Judeo-Christian religion, throws away the better bits and ramps it up to another level of extreme.

    Therefore, it does deserve and it is fair and reasonable to treat it differently in the same sense as the vandal versus the serial killer.

    is this really so durn hard to comprehend?

  19. StevoR : Free West Papua, free Tibet, let the Chagossians return! says

    PS. Before anyone mis-interprets my analogy in #27 the wrong way – NO I am NOT implying or advocating that Muslim people be killed or harmed in any way.

    Muslim individual humans are the victims of the horrid ideology of Islam just as much as its other victims and if I could raise a magic wand and get my ideal wish, they’d all be deprogrammed into rational individual human non-Muslims not killed.

    Point is that religion is a very broad category just as crime is and just as there’s a spectrum of greater and lesser crimes so too there’s a spectrum of more destructive and less destructive religions.

    Or if you want another analogy, a yacht and a nuclear armed military submarine are both types of ocean -going boats but one can clearly do a whole lot more harm than the other and thus you don’t consider and treat them in the same way.

  20. says

    KKKristianists in North KKKarolina, as do KKKristianists everywhere, simultaneously bleat about persecution while boasting about their superiority in both numbers and morality.

    “Children first” v “Children last”? How about a nice license plate for Moloch*, “Children, they’re not just for breakfast, anymore!”

    “@ ^ Marcius : Thing is if the thing both Billy and Fred want to do are wrong -and people only criticise Billy for wanting it, its a bit wrong to do that.”

    When you begin your anti-muslim screeds with a lie, people don’t really need to work too hard at figuring out where you’re going next.

    * Re: Moloch; like many other competitors with YHWH, Moloch, the loser comes off as being particularly dickish–his followers didn’t write the Wholly Babble.

  21. anteprepro says

    Muslim individual humans are the victims of the horrid ideology of Islam just as much as its other victims and if I could raise a magic wand and get my ideal wish, they’d all be deprogrammed into rational individual human non-Muslims not killed.

    Convenient. That’s my wish for you and your horrid ideology as well, StevoR. Because you’ve made it obvious that nothing short of magic will make you become less of a thrall to right-wing talking points and bigotry.

  22. says

    “Muslim individual humans are the victims of the horrid ideology of Islam just as much as its other victims and if I could raise a magic wand and get my ideal wish, they’d all be deprogrammed into rational individual human non-Muslims not killed.”

    KKKristians and other religionists, otoh, they’re just fine?

    The assholes who ran Europe for about 800 years (from the fall of Rome until, at least, the Renaissance) were responsible for millions of deaths, by commission (purges, pogroms and the crusades) and omission (the black plague and other pestilential epidemics that might never have occurred if science had not been treated as heresy.

    The muslims have certainly been involved in some pretty horrific shit, especially since 1970, but Christians, Buddhists, Shintoists, Hindus and other religious groups have been just as vicious and brutal in their turns.

  23. Ichthyic says

    Also I wonder why would an atheist be so keen to express support for Islam the most brutally fundamentalist and extreme of all major religions?

    I see others have gamely tried to explain the point to poor StevO, who, as he so often does, not only fails to get it even then, but goes on to repeatedly attack the responders for pointing out, yet again, his obvious bias and bigotry that blinds him to seeing the point to begin with.

    A hearty fuck you to StevO, for demonstrating yet again, that he is indeed a bigot, and a dumb one at that.

  24. dingojack says

    STEVO: OBJECTION !!
    DINGO: Goes to establishing a pattern of prior bad behaviour, m’lord.
    JUDGE: Very well, I’ll allow it. Over ruled.

    :) Dingo

  25. dingojack says

    Stevo – a wise guy once said:

    “PS. As for those on Pharyngula who reckon deaths are never funny, yeesh, fools, get a sense of humour – death isthepunchlien of ahelluva lot of jokes.

    As Monty Python sang : Always look on the bright side of death!””

    I forget who it was now.

    :) Dingo

  26. carlie says

    I hate the concept of specialty plates at all. The whole POINT of a license plate is for your car to be identified to you if the authorities need to – either from it being stolen, or from someone driving it committing a crime (like a hit and run). If you can’t even tell at a glance what state a plate comes from, that makes them practically useless for ID.

  27. uncephalized says

    @carlie: completely agree, and I suspect many here would as well.

    However: many religious authoritarians seem to think their 1st Amendment rights include forcing the state to display their religious messages on state-issued license plates (and court houses, an schools, and…), and would give up their tellingly-named vanity plates only over their dead bodies. The next-best option is to at least make certain Christianists are not allowed to have their cake and eat it too by enforcing their ideology as the sole beneficiary–which is an obvious violation of the Establishment Clause.

    I for one hope that so many custom plates are requested that the expense, administrative complexity, and law-enforcement difficulty inherent to producing so many unique designs will cause states to reconsider offering such a stupid program. You want to plaster your dumb-ass opinions all over the rest of your vehicle? No one’s stopping you.

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