You need a poll to start the week

This one is on CNN: Is it OK for states to issue car license plates with religious messages?

Boy, when you put it that simply, isn’t it obvious? Since when should a state government be in the business of promoting religious slogans? Let people buy a nice religious license plate frame from a private business, or slap a bumper sticker on their car.

(It’s good to see that “no” is in the lead, but this poll is about evenly split so far.)


  1. sfatheist says

    Just voted, it is now 55/45 with the No vote winning. What a great way to start the week.

  2. says

    Yay for my home state!

    Our Lt. Governor Andre Bauer is putting up the $4k for he start of the plates. Bauer is well known across our state as having a lead foot and has had many a driving ticket. I see this as him giving back. Now we can know who to look out for on the roads. Think of it as a safety measure.

  3. June says

    It never occurs to believers that separation of C&S is intended to protect their religion from being outlawed (as it well should be).

  4. Snitzels says

    Disclaimer on the bottom of the poll: “This is not a scientific poll”


  5. robotaholic says

    …another poll bites the dust…
    and another one down
    and another one down
    …another poll bites the dust…

  6. NOSEYONE says

    I put my NO vote in. As a Canadian, I feels it’s important to help you guys out with such missions.

  7. Snrky says

    Saw this poll before I jumped over here and voted, it’s 44/56 now. It’s satisfying to see no in the lead but this margin is way too small for my liking. As #4 said, way too many whackjobs.

  8. Damian says

    I couldn’t understand why the only poll that I could find, asked: “Should the United Nations impose sanctions on Zimbabwe?”

    For anyone else who encounters this problem, you have been taken to the International edition. Just change it to the US edition.

    Steadily rising to 56%. It will be difficult to completely skew this result.

  9. Mystyk says

    Yes 44% 11712
    No 56% 15066
    Total Votes: 26778

    PZ, is there a fundy campaign to counter our votes? That seems like an awful lot of yes votes.

  10. Patrick says

    The poll is misleading. By SC law, any group can pay $4000 to have custom license plates printed with the symbol of their organization. So you or I (if we were unfortunate enough to live in South Carolina) could pay $4000 for a South Carolina Gamecock or any other symbol with significance to enough people to justify putting the deposit down for custom plates. Assuming the government approval does not favor one group over another, it makes little difference to me what groups want to print on their license plates.

    However, this is not such a situation. The South Carolina plate would have words (“I Believe”) as well as a more decorated symbol than would normally be allowed for a group purchasing custom plates.

    A more accurate poll would be “Is it OK for states to issue custom car license plates for religious groups and favor Christianity over other religions?”

  11. says

    Just curious where you get off dismissing a whole state as an “unfortunate place to live” on the basis of the actions of a few in relation to a license plate.

  12. tony says

    Yes 44% 18338
    No 56% 23786
    Total Votes: 42124

    The sad thing is that over 18000 numbnuts think that this is perfectly fine!

  13. says

    I voted yes working under the assumption of fair and equal representation of all faiths and non-faiths (fat chance, I know.) Don’t worry though, I only voted yes once. The other 30 times were all nos.

  14. Michelle says

    I like that pay thing, Patrick. Give us 4000 bucks and make your own license plate! As long as I’m allowed to put obscenities, I’m totally cool with that. But why do I have that weird idea they would censor me?

  15. ILYa says

    No is still in the lead at solid 56%. I am so tired of people thanking god on their vanity plate for allowing them to take out that car loan for their Escalade.
    I saw one of those huge SUVs the other day with a variation on the “Red Pill”, which I found cute if I may say so. Red Pill would be the one that left you in the Matrix.

  16. Quiet Desperation says

    I’m a skeptic and atheist, but this is a non-issue to me. Let people get what they want on a plate they pay extra for. I’d rather the government made no judgments at all on the matter. I mean how much proselytizing can someone do in seven letters?

    Just curious where you get off dismissing a whole state as an “unfortunate place to live” on the basis of the actions of a few in relation to a license plate.

    I’ve said this many times: politics and ideology *dissolve* skepticism and critical thinking on contact. Remember the “molecular acid” blood in the first Alien movie? It’s like that.

    And I love how the guy lives in California.

    Hey, Patrick? I’m in California, too. We have nothing to brag about. This is home of some of the flat out stupidest politicians the *world* has ever seen. It’s a state legislature full of village idiots. I am so glad many of the worst will be term limiting out, soon, although the gerrymandering will just get us carbon copy replacements. Yeah, our votes count. *snort*

  17. themadlolscientist says

    Yes 43%, No 57%. Resistance is futile. You will be assimilated by our tentacled Overlords.

  18. Christianjb says

    The great irony of fighting for secularist principles (which I believe in) is that the surest way to destroy religion is the merging of church and state. (Compare Britain and the U.S.)

    I will never understand why the religious aren’t the greatest secularists of all. Arguably, the biggest reason why America has such a high degree of religiosity compared to other Western nations is that (so far) the state has done a pretty good job in protecting American’s freedom to believe in (and promote) any old nonsense they choose.

    This country has a free-market in idiocy, and the idiots don’t appreciate how good they’ve good it.

  19. Jason says

    The statements on these plates range from: “Live Free or Die” to “Great Potatoes.” The truth is somewhere between those two, and it’s probably closer to “great potatoes.”

  20. BaldApe says

    It’s interesting, isn’t it, that you see the poll and vote before reading the related article.

    At first, I thought they were talking about vanity tags, or tags representing membership in a religious organization, either of which would be fine, as bumper stickers are, for instance. But a tag issued by the state as a regular license place that says “I believe” is unacceptable.

  21. Quiet Desperation says

    The statements on these plates range from: “Live Free or Die” to “Great Potatoes.” The truth is somewhere between those two, and it’s probably closer to “great potatoes.”

    Oops, mea culpa. OK, I misunderstood what the issue was because I couldn’t get through to the site at first, and tried to glean it from the initial comments. And there was the whole silly issue with “WTF” showing up on random plates a couple weeks back.

    I’d definitely oppose separate religious slogans like that slogans.

    Actually, I’d love to have “Great Potatoes” on my California plates. :-) In our case, of course, it would be referring to our elected (technically) representatives. BAH HA HA! I crack me up.

  22. Quiet Desperation says

    I’d definitely oppose separate religious slogans like that slogans.

    Oh, geez, it’s a Monday, isn’t it? :-( Sleep inadequate. Systems going into hibernation. Beep.

  23. Jason says

    No, no, the poll was about whether or not license plates should have religious slogans on them (seperation of church state issue)

    I was just randomly quoting George Carlin out of the blue because I just woke up.

  24. watercat says

    Messages you can get on a license plate in South Carolina:
    In God We Trust
    God Bless America
    I Believe
    Choose Life (coming out in Sept)

    You can also get: In Reason We Trust

    Scarolina law…
    … permits public bodies to hold prayers (in violation of supreme court case law)

    …allows govt. bodies to display the 10 commandments

    … authorizes schools to teach courses in the Old and New testaments

    …allows public schools to award elective credit for religious classes conducted off-campus by religious organizations during the school day.

    …requires a woman who is at least 14 weeks pregnant be given the opportunity to view an ultrasound image of her baby at least an hour before an abortion.

    …currently pending in the legislature: a “strengths & weaknesses” bill, for teaching creationism in the schools.

    Section 2 of the South Carolina Consitution:
    “No person who denies the existence of the Supreme Being shall hold any office under this Constitution.”

  25. Quiet Desperation says

    At first, I thought they were talking about vanity tags

    Don’t feel bad. I did, too. Use the “Monday” excuse. :-)

  26. Nick says

    My favorite religious-license-plate-related moment was the time I walked past a car with a dented passenger side, a busted out window, and a vanity plate that read, “My Co-Pilot Is Jesus.”

  27. says

    I just looked again and the percentages are about the same as when I first looked about two hours ago. However, at that time, there were something like 9000 in the “yes” and 11,000 in the “no.” Now there’s over 32,000 ayes & 42,000 nays. Is some Christian blogger seeding survey memes, an evil opposite of PZ?

  28. says

    Sad that such a large percentage of poll respondents don’t believe in ‘separation of church and state’.

  29. Blaker6666 says

    I live in Canada and i went to get a personalized plate. i asked for “atheist” and i was told “no thats religious”.

  30. Randy says

    I voted yes, just charge a huge fee. If someone wants to waste money on a dumb license plate, let them. They let folks charge extra for alma mater plates and other vanity plates. so make some money off of stupid people (kind of like the lottery)

  31. Pablo says

    OK, I’ll contribute to the $4000 for anyone who wants to create the “Satan Rules” license plate, which will get denied and serve as the ACLU case.

    Then again, I see Barry Lynn is all over it. From what is described in the article, this is pretty much open and shut.

  32. Snitzels says

    I just don’t get how they can say anyone opposed to this is prejudiced toward Christianity. If it were a Muslim plate they’d shoot it down in an instant as “promoting terrorism”. If it were Wiccan, Buddhist, Hindu, anything else, they would never even consider it. But christianity apparently gets special treatment? They would have to create one for every religion out there if they want to follow through with this… so stupid.

  33. Pablo says

    Oh, I “get” how they can say those opposed are prejudiced against Christianity. Remember, from their perspective, not supporting using government resources to promote Christianity is persecution.

    Admittedly, that is a bizarro leap, but it is extremely common in all areas. It’s just a matter of learning how their thought process works.

  34. khops says

    Ugh some of the comments on the actual article are atrocious. Why is it instead of defending whatever demented reasoning Christians may have for the plate, they instead start up the wahhhhhmbulance and cry about how everyone is so mean and persecutes them. I almost snorted coffee when I read a comment about how they’re glad Christians are FINALLY standing up for themselves. Seriously?

  35. Jeff D says

    BTW, Section 2 of the South Carolina Constitution is a dead letter as a result of Torcaso v. Watkins.

    In Indiana, where I live, the Bureau of Motor Vehicles decided to issue a license plate bearing “In God We Trust” to any driver who requested the plate, without extra charge. Court challenges to this are still pending. When I renewed my registrations in 2007 for my family’s 3 vehicles, I was issued 3 of those IGWT plates. The clerk didn’t give me a choice; the BMV license branch just had an overstock of those plates.

    I can think of far more important battles to fight (in protecting church-state separation) than preventing the Indiana BMV from issuing god-squad license plates at no extra charge, in effect to subsidize drivers’ vague, general religious expression at the expense of all taxpayers or all drivers in general.

    If the Indiana BMV charged extra for the “In God We Trust” plate, like any other “vanity” or “special interest group” plates, and if the extra charge pretty obviously covered the cost of producing the plates, it wouldn’t bother me.

  36. Son of Strom says

    As a South Carolinian, I have a compromise and it doesn’t require any legislation. Keep your religion out of my government and I won’t say a word about any license tag you want to create and put on your FRONT bumper or sticker anywhere on your car. Make one up that says “I believe and anyone who doesn’t is going to hell.” If anyone attempts to prevent you from doing so my ACLU dues will help fight and win your law suit.
    I don’t know if anyone else mentioned this, but their were two other equally illegal pieces of legislation passed this session: one to allow prayers before local government meetings and another to allow the display of the Ten Commandments on government property. These jackasses love to go home and tell the yokels that they voted for it and that a few Democrats actually voted against it.

  37. Sarah says

    While this example is much more blatant, we in Indiana have been dealing with this issue for over a year. In 2006, the state began offering an alternative plate featuring a billowing US Flag and “In God We Trust” blazoned across the plate.

    The major issue at hand: In IN, there are many non-standard plates available (colleges, charities, etc), at a cost of $35 extra plus any donation as required by the beneficiary of the plate. (Example – if I get a breast cancer awareness plate, it costs me $35 plus a $10-50 donation to Komen) However, this plate was produced by the state, with no additional fee required or allowed. It is merely an alternative to the standard plate. I wouldnt care if you had to pay for it, just like the “Choose Life” plate or the “DNR” plate. But being offered at no extra cost smacks of state sponsored religiosity.

    In several DMV branches, citizens have complained of not being offered the standard plate but being forced to take the rah-rah God and ‘Merica plate. A case filed by the ICLU never saw court. Luckily, a redesign of the standard plate has replaced many of the God plates, but they are still available, still state sponsored and still piss me off.

    I can only hope that some crazy legislator finally tips the crazy scale enough that we all wake up and say, WTF?

  38. watercat says

    The plate says I Believe, but it doesn’t say in what, but it has a picture of a torture device, so obviously they believe in torture. I think it’s just a pro-Bush statement.

    They’re already being sued (again), but not by the ACLU, it’s by several Christian ministers and a Hindu group.
    Not just anybody can apply to the DMV for a special plate, you have to be a non-profit organization registered with the IRS for five years or more. Restrictions are; name of the group is the only text allowed, only graphic is the groups emblem. To get around that, SC Citizen’s For Life changed their name to “Choose Life, SC”!

    Of course, the other way you can do it is to lobby the legislature, and they aren’t bound by the restrictions. That’s how this I Believe plate came about, but good luck getting a SC lawmaker to support anything irreligious.
    Some other points.
    The legislature has to supply the DMV with a marketing plan for these plates.
    There’s no extra fee for In God We Trust plates; the State eats the cost.
    The extra fees for the Choose Life plates will go to support anti-abortion crusaders.

  39. astroande says

    I always thought that Jesus taught that you weren’t supposed to go around all “Check it out! I’m Christian, isn’t that awesome?” Growing up, my family was ostensibly Christian, but we didn’t feel the need to plaster our vehicles (our ourselves for that matter) with symbols advertising the fact. But living in Georgia, I had plenty of friends with Jesus fish stickers on their cars and WWJD bracelets.

  40. astroande says

    “The extra fees for the Choose Life plates will go to support anti-abortion crusaders.”

    Do the fees for the “I Believe” plates go to any group? I know that a portion of the extra fees for university plates (like my parents’ Georgia Tech plates) go to the school. That’s what SC should focus their vanity plate support on, education (and I say this as a fellow Southerner). Or just skip the plate and give the money to the schools.

  41. watercat says

    Do the fees for the “I Believe” plates go to any group?

    The governor put his foot down and said they could only charge extra the cost of making the plates, estimated at $4-$6 each.

    We have 27 different college plates. The biannual extra fee is $70, and 40 of it goes to the schools.

  42. Benjamin Franklin says

    to Damien @ #11

    In Zimbabwe the plate would say “ini tendera”

    That’s Shona for I believe.

    Or am I getting my polls confused? Damn you, World Tyrant, President-for-Life, Grand High Exalted Mystic Leader PZ Myers. Damn you, I say!

  43. Benjamin Franklin says

    Jason @ #28

    How about Free Potatoes? or- Free Potatoes or Die?

  44. says

    watercat #59, so does that mean the plates are simply to express what religion the driver is? That sounds too much like promoting one religious faith over another to me. Didn’t that guy read the Constitution?

  45. chgo_liz says

    @watercat….thanks for cluing us in on even more scary sh*t.

    In all seriousness: is there anyone here who lives in SC? I bet we could all donate a few dollars towards the $4K and get an FSM or “PZ Reigns” plate manufactured. If there’s anyone here in a position to order it (because they live there) and would do so, it could be a fun change of pace from crashing polls.

  46. says

    I’m in SC, remember we also have a Secular Humanist plate as well. I think a few of us have mentioned it. I think i even linked to it above.

    Says “In Reason We Trust” with a couple American flags.

  47. elbuho says

    Another interesting item on the CNN site, link just above the poll funnily enough:

    Go leave your comments

    Is the United States Military becoming a Christian organization? That’s what one U.S. soldier tells us.

    I met Army Specialist Jeremy Hall in Kansas City a few weeks ago. He’s based at Fort Riley, in Junction City, Kansas about an hour away.

    At 24, he’s a remarkable young man determined to complete one final mission. That is to win a lawsuit against the federal government.

    Specialist Hall is suing the Department of Defense and former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld for failing to protect his religious freedom. He says the military discriminates against non-Christians and his rights under the First Amendment were denied.

    Hall has served two tours in Iraq as a gunner. He’s back at Fort Riley now only because he says his life was threatened after it became public he is an atheist.

    “I don’t believe in God, luck, fate, or anything supernatural,” Hall told me.

    It wasn’t always that way. Hall grew up reading the Bible every night and saying grace at dinner. Then, after his first tour of duty, he met some friends who were atheist and decided to read the Bible again. He read the whole Bible, and had so many unanswered questions, he says, he decided to embrace atheism.

    In the army, he says, that cost him dearly.

    Hall says he was denied a promotion because of his beliefs, and felt his life was in jeopardy. He says the army assigned him a full-time bodyguard because of threats.

    At Thanksgiving, Hall refused to pray with his table and says an officer told him to go sit somewhere else.

    Also, after he was nearly killed when his humvee was attacked, he says a fellow soldier asked him, “do you believe in Jesus now?”

    Hall says he was ostracized because he didn’t embrace fundamentalist Christianity.

    We checked and religious discrimination is against military policy.

    Bill Carr, the man in charge of military personnel policy at the Pentagon, told me, “if an atheist chose to follow their convictions, absolutely, that’s acceptable. And that’s a point of religious accommodation in department policy, one may hold whatever faith, or may hold no faith.”

    Hall doesn’t want money from the military. He just wants soldiers to be guaranteed religious freedom. He plans to leave the army next year, as soon as he can, and wants to leave it a better place than when he first joined it, he says.

    What do you think? Should military members be allowed to proselytize? Do you believe the Pentagon when it says this isn’t happening?

  48. watercat says

    Not just anybody can apply to the DMV for a special plate, you have to be a non-profit organization registered with the IRS for five years or more. (see my earlier posts 36 & 55) Then, the only thing you can have on the plate is the name and emblem of your organization.
    Unless you’re buddies with some of the legislators: that’s how the I Believers are getting their torture device on theirs.

    This thing passed both the House and the Senate unanimously. Typical fundy reasoning, from the chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee, “I didn’t see a constitutional problem with it…We have other plates with religious symbols on them and phrases like ‘In God We Trust’.” IOW, we already trashed the constitution so we should be able to do it some more.

    In 2001 they attempted a “choose life” plate, got sued, lost, and cost the State $150,000 in legal fees. So they changed the law, and then tried again. Now getting sued for this one, will probably get sued again when Choose Life comes out in September…

  49. lee says

    They should give us a fixed space on the license plate and let us put any slogan we want. This way, not only can we atheists express our opinion, but we can get a warning when we approach a dangerous driver (“give that bible thumper plenty of room, Ed – he’s clearly hard of thinking!”)…

  50. ChemBob says

    Oddly, on the CNN mobile site ( the one that my iPhone opens at the linked URL) the results are reversed, 56 yes, 44 no. The regular site is 43 yes, 57 no. Go figure.

  51. says

    I gotta say, I’m a little disappointed in the choice of polls you’re choosing to disrupt. The last three have had me voting the opposite of the majority of your sheep. In this case, personalized licence plates on one’s car are expressing the opinion of the car’s owner, not the State of issuance of the plates. In your vaunted “free country” people should absolutely be allowed to express their opinions in just about any form they choose. It would be wrong if the ‘I Believe’ licence plates were the default plate issued to every car owner, but that is not the case here.

  52. says

    I gotta say, I’m a little disappointed in the choice of polls you’re choosing to disrupt. The last three have had me voting the opposite of the majority of your sheep. In this case, personalized licence plates on one’s car are expressing the opinion of the car’s owner, not the State of issuance of the plates. In your vaunted “free country” people should absolutely be allowed to express their opinions in just about any form they choose. It would be wrong if the ‘I Believe’ licence plates were the default plate issued to every car owner, but that is not the case here.

    bumper sticker.

  53. DrBadger says

    @Paul #70

    The difference is that other personalized plates (i.e. other religions/secular humanist, etc.) have restrictions (i.e. you could have a symbol, but not words), but the christian plates have no such restrictions. So, the state is supporting one religion over others (or a lack of one).

  54. says

    Apparently, that poll is now over. The new one is:

    Should states sell tickets for scratch-off lottery games when the top prize has already been won?

    Believe it or not, 16 percent said “Yes”.

  55. Jackson says

    We were on vacation last week and saw a special Indiana “In God We Trust” license plate.