License issue matter of liberty

License issue matter of liberty

Free speech issues comes in a variety of shapes and sizes — including that of a car's license plate.

A federal judge in North Carolina ruled this week that it is unconstitutional for that state to issue license plates carrying a pro-life message.

There will, no doubt, be considerable wailing and gnashing of teeth over what might seem to some people to be an unjustifiable exercise of judicial power. Before joining that chorus, be advised that the judge was correct.

The judge ruled that the decision by North Carolina's elected officials constituted a classic case of viewpoint discrimination.

Say what? Viewpoint discrimination comes into play when the government picks and chooses the expressions of opinion that it allows, essentially supporting one perspective while suppressing a contrary viewpoint.

In this case, the legislature approved issuing license plates that read "Choose Life" while rejecting the issuance of license plates that read "Respect Choice."

You can't have one without the other if it is a message authorized by the government.

Why? Because government officials, under our U.S. Constitution, cannot be trusted to choose which messages are appropriate and which are not. To allow them to do so is an invitation to the kind of tyranny the Founding Fathers wanted to prevent.

If one speaks, all must be allowed to speak. That's the essence of the meaning of the First Amendment.

An analogy would be that of school officials allowing a group of student atheists to use an empty classroom for their monthly meeting while denying the same access to a Christian student organization. Can't do it. If school facilities — or state license plates — are open to one viewpoint, they must be open to a contrary viewpoint.

North Carolina legislators who want their state to be able to issue license plates carrying a pro-life, anti-abortion message can do so by allowing a similar pro-choice, pro-abortion message. Let the individual citizens decide what message, if any, they want to have on their license plates.

The legislation at issue here never actually went into effect. Passed in 2011, the courts issued a temporary injunction to block its implementation because of the legal issues that were raised. Now the injunction will be permanent.

It's not that the injunction prevented much from happening. Court records reveal only 300 people applied for the "Choose Life" license plates. In addition to yearly registration fees, the license plates cost $25 annually, $15 of which was passed on to crisis pregnancy centers.

It's potentially a good way of raising money for worthy causes — as long as both sides of the causes are represented.

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STM wrote on December 12, 2012 at 1:12 pm

The pregnancy centers can sell bumper stickers to make money and the state can stay out of it. Problem solved!  Isn't that good enough?  Oh yeah, NG has an agenda to promote.


Sid Saltfork wrote on December 12, 2012 at 3:12 pm

What's next?  Political party affiliation license plates?  "If you can read this, your not a member of the Tea Party" CANTOR16.

read the DI wrote on December 14, 2012 at 9:12 pm

"Because government officials, under our U.S. Constitution, cannot be trusted to choose which messages are appropriate and which are not. To allow them to do so is an invitation to the kind of tyranny the Founding Fathers wanted to prevent."


Fundamentally an untrue statement, unless of course you think Supreme Court justices somehow don't count as government officials.


STM wrote on December 15, 2012 at 9:12 am

What does the News Gazette or it's anonyous blow-hard editorial writers know about tyranny or the founding fathers' intent?  Here's what I know of the founding fathers.  They were making a good-faith effort to solve the problems of the day. Today, we have serious problems in this country because self-serving interests and their mouthpiece propaganda outlets hang onto some fantasy about what the founders may or may not have intended.

The News Gazette and its irresponsible editorial writers are part of the reason our country cannot solve its worsening problems.  They hold to a fantasy of a past which is gone in this country and an ideology that is diminishing daily.