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Burnett's Urban Etiquette

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

right, wrong, doesn't matter?

The State of Florida currently offers more than 100 varieties of specialty license plates for drivers willing to pay a few extra bucks. As CNN put it, the state has tags available that celebrate everything from Manatees to the Miami Heat, a really crappy basketball team in the last year or so.

One legislator wants to add a Christian-themed plate to the mix, a plate that bears a cross and the slogan "I Believe."

Another legislator, a Catholic, says that she's opposed, because this plate will lead to future vanity plates displaying the Star of David or other religious symbols. And ACLU has moved to block production of the vanity plate, saying it would send a message that Florida formally promotes Christianity over other religions. The ACLU also argues the plate could open the door to other "specialty" groups to get their own plates, groups like the KKK.

First, I say the ACLU is wrong about the plates suggesting that Florida formally promotes Christianity. The whole point of vanity plates, why they call them "vanity" plates, is to reflect some personal interest of the person whose car carries the plates.

So if I pay extra to buy a license plate that has the image of a pimp stick on it does that mean the government of the State of Florida is officially pro pimp? I don't think so. Tax dollars don't pay for these types of tags. Vain individuals pay for them.

Second, I'd be fine with other groups having specialty license plates, especially the KKK. At least then I'd know who not to turn my back on. It would be like all the klansmen driving around with scarlet letters on their cars. The rest of us would see 'em coming a mile away.

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  • I would worry more about the klansmen. They'd have to have bullet-proof glass installed, I think.

    I often disagree w/ the ACLU but I think they've got it right here, by George. The state is not required constitutionally, I would think, to provide residents with that particular platform to exercise speech.

    I was thinking of making a bumper sticker about securing the border but I don't want my car vandalized.

    By Blogger M@, at 2:05 PM  

  • But, if people asked for, and were refused vanity plates that had Jewish or Muslim or Buddhist or Hindu or the Flying Spaghetti Monster or even "I DON'T Believe" on them, the state WOULD be promoting Christianity over other religions. So, if the state wants to approve vanity plates that promote Christianity they might as well go ahead and made up plates for all religions.

    By Blogger Jay, at 2:33 PM  

  • But it's alright for Florida to have this plate without any issues??

    By Blogger The Sarcasticynic, at 4:38 PM  

  • James,

    I think Florida legislators are supporting and promoting the plate just by approving it. By deciding what message can be displayed on a plate, they are rubber stamping the message and allowing it to appear on a State of Florida plate that is seen by everyone.

    I'm sure they would vote down the KKK one and by doing so would be showing their disapproval of the message. So, yes, in my mind they are promoting Christianity by approving this plate.

    Totally OT: Hey sarcasticsynic....miss your comments.

    By Blogger Rick, at 6:40 PM  

  • Let's see, ACLU, American Civil Liberties Union, dedicated to protecting the Bill of Rights, the first ten Amendments to the Constitution, like Freedom of Speech. I didn't know they got to pick and choose which platforms they protected, such as when they defended the American Nazi Party's right to march in Spokie, Ill., or their right to assemble in Rosslyn, Va. in 1971, when George Lincoln Rockwell was shot by his own people.

    Of course, there's that pesky separation of Church and State provision, but then, they are bright, they're the ACLU, I'm sure the KKK thinks it's full of all kinds of alphabet soup, from every religious belief other than theirs. What religion was acceptable? I forgot.

    A heuristic: Approve one, approve them all.

    By Blogger The CEO, at 11:27 PM  

  • Talk about a can of worms! Now let's throw the word 'censorship' into the mix... at what point do we draw the line between offensive (and to whom) and one's right to free speech (heart on one's sleeve)? Never mind the politics, religion, gender identity, sexual preference, or age discriminators... how about just plain rude comments, gestures, pictures on the license plates? Where will it end?

    By Blogger Fire Fox, at 2:12 AM  

  • Nice to know 'Political correctness' is alive & well in Fla!

    If you really want to promote something there are always bumper stickers.

    By Blogger Bronchitkat, at 8:01 AM  

  • M@, I hear ya. The klan probably would have to look over its collective shoulder with KKK vanity plates. But I'm not sure I agree with your logic on the plates in general. I didn't interpret this as the state feeling like it had to fulfill some obligation to Christian drivers who want vanity plates. It was a proposal by an apparent Christian legislator to make such plates available for the same fee that other hobbyists and special interest folks get now. If Muslim, Jewish, Pagan, Martian, etc., legislators want to introduce bills to produce plates that their comrades would pay extra money for, more power to 'em.
    Yeah, and about that bumper sticker: good call. It sucks that you can't post your opinion without fear of vandalism. But that's how it goes these days.

    Jay, I agree with you. If the state rejected those other groups' requests for specialty tags then the state should be sued. Like I told M@, as long as folks are willing to pay for the tags almost every group should get a shot at a specialty tag. The exceptions, of course, should be groups like a national league of child molestors.

    Sarc, that other plate is interesting. Not sure if I'd find it offensive. If I'm pro choice, is a "choose life" tag offensive to me? If so, why, 'cause it recommends a stance that goes against my stance? What about a "choice rules" tag? What if the pro lifers say that tag offends them 'cause they think it promotes abortion? I'd call that one a wash. On a lighter note, Dave Barry recently blogged about a military man whose vanity tag was challenged. He says he intended it to be an acronym for a tactical fighting unit. But the word spelled a profane slang for the female anatomy.

    Rick, your argument has logic. But I still think the cure for that would be to let every other religious or philosophical group in Florida have a specialty tag long as they're willing to pay for it.

    Monty, the ACLU has definitely generated a love/hate relationship with a lot of folks. I think the protect free speech mission was noble. My problem is with the suppression of some speech these days 'cause it might hurt some folks feelings. On the one hand I can't stand those Klan marches and rallies, 'cause I hate what they're saying. But on the other hand, I don't want to stop them from saying it 'cause I'd like the reasonable members of the public to see how stupid the Klan is, and I don't think my finding them distasteful is enough of a reason to silence them. The line, I believe, should be when any group uses its "free" speech to spark violence or threaten the wellbeing of other groups. The bottom line though is that I don't want any sort of censorship on these license plates, 'cause if they limit who can get a specialty plate, next thing they'll come after is our bumper stickers, and then the slogans on our sweatshirts, and then the titles on the covers of the books we read, and so on.

    Fire Fox, you raise a good point on the other side of this debate. So if we let every single "special" group have a tag, how do we determine which groups' mottos are too offensive to justify a special tag? Good question. I don't know the answer.

    Bronchitikat, good point about the bumper stickers. But like I told Rick, wouldn't you worry that if they censor the license plates (again, the exeptions being pornographic stuff, or profane stuff) the next thing the government will censor will be bumper stickers?

    By Blogger James Burnett, at 11:41 AM  

  • James, an acronym for a tactical fighting unit!! Ha ha ha! Now there's the SNAFU ...

    By Blogger The Sarcasticynic, at 4:45 PM  

  • James--I had left out of my calculations the factor that other causes were already allowed on license plates in Florida.

    CEO--You miss my point. I didn't mean that the state (or ACLU) should discriminate (pick and choose) which platforms should be used for free speech... I just meant that the state doesn't necessarily have to PROVIDE the platform.

    There is a distinction.

    By Blogger M@, at 6:19 PM  

  • M@-as usual, you are quite correct. I am actually picking on the ACLU for doing anything other than standing tall for freedom of speech. The only reason I can think of for the State to produce license plates is to use them as a form of income every year.
    I got it the first time, but thank you for the clarification, it's always welcome.

    By Blogger The CEO, at 8:46 PM  

  • ...I'd be fine with other groups having specialty license plates, especially the KKK. At least then I'd know who not to turn my back on. It would be like all the klansmen driving around with scarlet letters on their cars.

    Yeah, and see? This is where people who want to bar "hate speech" have it all wrong.

    While freedom of speech is fine and well as a tool to express oneself it's even better for giving wackjobs the rope with which to hang themselves so we don't have to waste our own precious time doing it for them.

    By Anonymous Steph, at 8:38 AM  

  • Sarc, I'm leaving that one alone!

    M@, true, but to be fair to you, I don't believe other religious or philosophical groups already have specialty tags in Florida. I think this would be the first. And good distinction, btw, on the point you and the CEO were debating.

    Monty, you and M@ should co-host a constitutional rights radio show. I'd listen, I long as you two had some funny sound effects and told a joke every now and then.

    Too true, Steph. My only caveat would be when free speech becomes yelling fire in a crowded theater or threatening someone else's life or well-being or being profane, like in a sexual way in the presence of children or something. Then it's being abused.

    By Blogger James Burnett, at 9:45 AM  

  • my best friend has one that's got the whole breast cancer awareness situation splashed all over it.

    i laugh at her because she bought it because its PINK! lol

    now that's vanity.

    I just wish i had a license plate. ;p

    (ps.. its yas. i'm not dead. just MIA all the damned time)

    By Blogger L, at 12:26 AM  

  • Let people buy personalized plate frames. The plates should be simple numbers and letters. As much as I enjoy reading the clever ones - it's just another bottomless pit of what ifs.

    Reminds me of when my kids were small and they would argue over who got the most ice cream. heh heh.

    By Blogger Pamela, at 2:05 AM  

  • Well, if they make an "I believe" plate, I want a plate that says "I believe I can fly". Think they'll accomodate? :)

    By Blogger Claudia, at 12:54 PM  

  • Yas! My long lost sister from another Mister. I thought you had evaporated or something. OK, getting a license plate 'cause of its color, not its cause? Yeah, that's vain!

    Pamela, that's the most logical suggestion yet: everyone gets a personalized plate frame with whatever theme they want on it. I'd buy one.

    Claudia, you'd better wait to see whether or not R. Kelly gets convicted first, before you go for that plate theme!

    By Blogger James Burnett, at 4:05 PM  

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