Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Here they go again

I've said many times that people should be allowed to practice whatever sort of religion makes them happy and fulfilled. Worship Jesus? Great. The Prophet Muhammad? Good for you. Create a cult around William Shatner? Why not? But when religious entities want to shove their beliefs in my face or, worse, get the government to help them in that effort, I'm inclined to resist. Such is the case in Florida, where some Christians are pressing the Legislature to approve a specialty license plate that includes a Christian cross, a stained-glass window and the words "I Believe." The plates would require a $25 annual fee, with the proceeds going to a nonprofit group called Faith in Teaching Inc., which supports "faith-based" school activities. It seems obvious that this is a violation of the separation of church and state, in that the state of Florida would seem to be endorsing a particular religion. One of the legislative supporters of the plate, Republican Sen. Ronda Storms, said the state, by offering a variety of specialty license plates, had created a "public forum," and that blocking access to that forum is also unconstitutional. I find it hard to equate a license plate touting a religious belief system with one reading, "Save the Manatee," but that's just me. According to the Associated Press, the plate appears unlikely to win approval during the current legislative session, and its backers, of course, are threatening legal action. I have a couple of options for the "believers" that don't involve relying on the government to help promote their religion or deliver their "message" to schoolchildren. If you want to say "Look at me! I love Jesus!" you could buy a couple of bumper stickers for your car. I've seen ones that say "Jesus is My Co-Pilot" or "My Boss is a Jewish Carpenter." Catchy. Heck, buy hundreds of them and cover your car. Buy a cross for use as a hood ornament. Put stained glass in your taillights. Or, come back to the Legislature next year with a proposal for not only your "I Believe" license plate, but license plates touting Islam, Judaism, Buddhism, Hinduism, Animism, Taoism, Wicca, Baha'i and many more. And, just to be fair, how about a license plate for the atheists saying, "The Bible is a Fairy Tale"? I'm guessing that's a longshot.



Anonymous Anonymous said...

Of course if they offer this plate, they should be required to offer SATAN RULZ with a pentagram emblazoned on it. What are the chances of that?

I come from the school of thought that says you don't wear your faith on your sleeve. Jesus didn't find it necessary to wear a "Son of God" T-shirt.

This is in direct conflict with many of today's evangelical Christians, who think it their duty to foist Christianity on everyone within shouting distance or else risk being booted from the vicinity of the Pearly Gates come Judgment Day.

I'm not averse to someone, if asked, telling me about their practice of worship -- be it Muslim, Christian, Eckankar or Subud -- but I don't want it thrown at me. I hate to see Chrsitianity go the same, berated route of the Hare Krishna airport crowd.

I'm not sure a license plate qualifies as "throwing" your faith in someone's face, but it's almost like having a Jesus bobblehead on your dashboard.

April 30, 2008 at 2:37 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What would be particularly scary about the cult of William Shatner is they would end up using his renditions of "Mr. Tambourine Man" and "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" as sacred music.

And where would Leonard Nimoy fall into the cult of William Shatner?

I'm betting this license plate effort is little more than an attempt to create a wedge issue in an election year, and get a demoralized GOP base to the polls.

--Brad Hundt

May 1, 2008 at 12:53 PM  
Blogger PRIguy said...

This plate is clearly a violation of church & state. In Virginia, conservative, backward, still-fighting-the-Civil-War Virginia, there is a plethora of choices for personalized plates, but none of them has a religious theme. People are allowed, however, to make little slogans and have them on their plates: PRZ HIM (must be in support of Perez Hilton) or N2 GZUS. I think these cross the line too. You can't have it both ways.

I used to work with a guy who said, "I feel sorry for people who believe they can sum up a personal belief on a bumper sticker or license plate." How true. Virginia is limited to 8 characters. It's tough to preach a tenet in 8 characters.

Now, with this William Shatner religion that seems to be generating a lot of interest, I'd like to know if this is TV Star Trek Shatner, or movie Star Trek Shatner, or the revitalized career Shatner (Priceline, Boston Legal). Sects seem to be all the rage in fringe religions. I just need to know which one I'm going to join so I can get my license plate request in!

May 2, 2008 at 9:35 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

In PA, they also attempt to draw a line of good taste. For example, it was reported some years ago that someone who had a personal distaste for USSteel was not allowed to have USX SUX. I believe we are too easily offended these days, but who decides what offends? Does HTLR4EVR cross a line?

I like ambiguity: IM1 UR2

Or the obvious. IMI URU

May 3, 2008 at 9:35 AM  
Blogger grog said...

Why do so many people complain and moan when people publicly express their Christian faith? I think the complainers are so miserable in their lives that they hate to see anyone happy with theirs. And what was the true purpose or meaning behind the ruling of the separation of church and state? Every offending religious expression in this country gets shot down because of that famous ruling. That was one powerful ruling.

Being a Christian isn't a curse. We all have freedoms to act and do as we want in this country. Why do so many people condone almost any expression of body or lifestyle except for Christian affiliation? Why does public expression of Christianity offend so many people?

Personally, I think people who are offended by Christian expression have deeper, more shameful issues that they are struggling with.

Jesus said that those who are ashamed of Him on earth, that He would will be ashamed of them before the Father in Heaven. So if you plan on going to Heaven, you may want to order one of those Christian, cross bearing, license plates.

May 6, 2008 at 2:21 PM  
Blogger Brant said...

I have no objection whatsoever to people expressing their beliefs on their cars, on their homes or on their bodies in the form of tattoos. I object when they try to involve the government of ALL people in advertising their narrow views. But it's good to hear from you, old buddy.

May 6, 2008 at 3:35 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

See ... the problem living in a country where everyone is free to express viewpoints is that sometimes, those viewpoints fly in the face of others. Being able to "complain and moan" is part of the American experience. It's when people try to limit what you complain and moan about that we have problems.

I have no problem with people expressing their faith in various ways, but I want everyone to be free to express their faith, no matter what it is. I don't want people whining if the local Satanist has signs in his front yard anymore than I want people whining about Christians putting up Nativity scenes.

But again, where do we draw a line? If I fly the Nazi flag, is that OK? What about the Confederate flag, or the Communist flag? If anti-gays want to pass marriage amendments, why can't gays express their annoyance?

I think Christianity has been corrupted by its practitioners, who are now more than ever viewed as judgmental, hypocritical and not reflective of the true values of Christianity. As for cross pins and WWJD bumper stickers, you remember the sale of indulgences, right? If buying a license plate is all it takes to get in to heaven, expect long lines at the DMV.

May 7, 2008 at 10:44 AM  
Blogger PRIguy said...

We all have the right to our religious beliefs. It's one of the greatest things about America. But this IS America, and as such, there are hundreds of diverging viewpoints, particularly on something as emotional and personal as religion.

I worked with a guy who was "born again." Prior to his rebirth, he was a hard-drinking, fighting, womanizer. After the rebirth, he was meek and timid...until you said something he didn't want to hear. He routinely told people that they were going to Hell for certain "infractions." Well, what HE considered infractions. I was taught that the ultimate judgment was up to God and only God. Not some reformed alcoholic, pugilistic player who decided he better behave himself. I fully support his right to practice his religion as he sees fit. But it's HIS religion, and because of that, I don't want it shoved down my throat - particularly when his views, while moral on the surface, are enforced by angry, hateful, judgmental rhetoric.

What I'm trying to say is, believe what you want, practice what you want, pray to whom you want. Just do it in your home or your church. If I'm interested, I'll approach you. Otherwise, stay away from me.

I don't feel that being a good Christian (or Buddhist, Shinto, Jew, Sunni, Muslim, etc.) means that you have to be in people's faces to spread the message. Some of the finest Christians I have ever known never stepped into a church. But they lived the Golden Rule every day of their lives.

The government, as well as state entities like the DMV, absolutely must stay out of things like this.

May 11, 2008 at 8:07 AM  

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