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'Choose Life' Plates Will Remain in 5th Circuit States

The 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, in an opinion by Judge Edith Jones, has walked over the First Amendment issues involved in Louisiana's "Choose Life" license plates and instead, by declaring the fee paid for license plates a tax, has referred the case back to the state courts.

This is a bad decision. Our pal Bill Rittenberg, who represented the freedom of choice activists in the case, says that in effect, Judge Edith Jones (who also once ruled it's okay if the defense lawyer sleeps through his client's death penalty trial) has decided that the state courts should decide first amendment rights that the state legislature denied. He says the Court sidestepped the real issue as to whether the plates profide the the state a device to discriminate based on viewpoint. I'm surprised Judge Edward Prado joined the decision.

Our view: "Choose Life" license plates are fine, provided they include the tag line "End the Death Penalty."

On a related note, yesterday the Ohio Senate authorized license plates that say "one nation under g-d" for an extra 10 bucks. Our source quips: "I guess it could be worse - they could have offered - "Jesus died for our sins." That bill now goes to the Ohio House.

On another related note, Judge Edith Jones has been mentioned by some as a possible Bush Supreme Court nominee.

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  • Give me a break! The obsession of leftists regarding abortion is so neatly displayed in their outrage over the "Choose Life" license plates. Why didn't you guys sue over the "save the manatee" license plates as well? Surely that is viewpoint discrimination against those of us who don't want to save those worthless critters, right?

    Re: 'Choose Life' Plates Will Remain in 5th Circui (none / 0) (#2)
    by Darryl Pearce on Thu Apr 14, 2005 at 05:04:07 PM EST
    How about this one? "There is no god you superstitious fanatics." ...mmm, a little rough. Maybe this? "Use your God-given free will to allow a SAFE FOLLOWING DISTANCE." More philosophy? "You cannot TEST God and you cannot bend time backwards BY SPEEDING." Or is that physics?

    They are all over Florida. It's good in one respect: you can easily pick out the Republicans. They are usually accompanied by a "Support Our Troops" magnet and a "W" sticker. I don't agree with Talk Left's proposed compromise. All states should gain revenue for its government by selling partisan license plates. I think the State should be made to offer "Criminalize the Death Penalty" plates. Or how about, "The War is Immoral" plates. Or how about, "End Hate Crime" plates. Maybe we could have a "End Marital Discrimination" plate too. We should welcome partisanship into our society to the point that it is inescapable. In every single program on television, on the radio, in print, in our music, our sports, our movies, our primary schools, our churches, our workplaces, in the lobbies and waiting rooms of our airports, our banks, our stores, our hospitals, on our clothes, on the backs of cars, in the ranks of our military, in our courtrooms, our police force, at the DMV....everywhere.

    I don't believe that any cause is worth so much as an extra nickel paid to the DMV, but for those who do, why not let them choose the message? In California, one can buy plates to: -- Support county veterans offices -- Support the Olympic training center in San Diego -- Assist in child care licensing and safety reforms -- Support the Firefighter memorial fund -- Give to the Yosemite foundation -- Give to the Tahoe Conservancy -- Endow UCLA scholarships -- Support the Coastal Commission -- Pay for arts education and local arts councils. -- Support 9/11 survivors' children and the Antiterrorism Fund -- Support generic environmental programs. Believe it or not, some of those programs are politically controversial. Nobody forces anyone to pay for the vanity plates.

    It just goes to show how far Western Civilization has declined when Liberals complain that a Judge has allowed tax-payers the choice to purchase a "choose life" vanity plate.

    It just goes to show how far Western Civilization has declined when conservatives complain that the entire judiciary is activist because dozens of judges declined to throw out 225 years of legal precedent and intervene in a private family dispute.

    Re: 'Choose Life' Plates Will Remain in 5th Circui (none / 0) (#7)
    by Johnny on Thu Apr 14, 2005 at 07:23:40 PM EST
    Declined? Protesting state endorsement of a religious viewpoint? License plates should be a string of alphanumeric characters with no "endorsements". Thats what frames are for. The dude in Fla. (can't remember when" who had "atheist" as his personalized plates got whined to by wrong-wingers all the time, by the way...

    Ditto As webmaster, you should delete your own OT post. Johnny "Choose Life" a Religious viewpoint? Hardly. et all Why don't you respond in kind and petition for "Choose Death" plates, so everyone will know where you're coming from?

    Re: 'Choose Life' Plates Will Remain in 5th Circui (none / 0) (#9)
    by Johnny on Thu Apr 14, 2005 at 08:22:26 PM EST
    It IS a religious viewpoint-by far the most vocal group of anti-choicers cite God as their inspiration. Including politicians. Sorry, not gonna buy the dismissive remark without explanation this time. Religious.

    Re: 'Choose Life' Plates Will Remain in 5th Circui (none / 0) (#10)
    by Peter G on Thu Apr 14, 2005 at 08:22:51 PM EST
    The basis of the lawsuit was indeed an attack on First Amendment viewpoint discrimination. The state of Louisiana offered the "Choose Life" plates (which is an anti-abortion slogan; whom are you trying to kid, Horse) and not any pro-choice alternative ("Support Women's Right to Choose"? "Live Choice"?) The decision is based on a federal law which says a federal court cannot enjoin the collection of a state "tax." Otherwise, a federal court can enjoin any state law which violates the First Amendment equal treatment principle. Does this fee-for-product deal sound like a "tax" to you? Doesn't to me.

    "Choose Life" a Religious viewpoint? Hardly. I know. It's so hard to believe that so many Anti-Abortion advocates are part of religious groups. We really should do more homework and find out just who those people are. Why don't you respond in kind and petition for "Choose Death" plates, so everyone will know where you're coming from? Hmm. Either, Or argument. You just failed critical reasoning 101. Or were you being intentionally obtuse? Admit that you love the partisan rancor, and I will forego further comment. Conservative ideologues are Zero Sum thinkers. Funny that so many religious zealots have aligned themselves with Corporatist Social Darwinists. You have a right to live, until the Conservatives decide you deserve death (or until the religious right decides that God wishes them dead). You'll forgive me if I am not impressed by claims of Conservative ethics/morality. They are oxymoronic.

    Johnny Because "Choose Life" happens to be a position supported by many of religous faith, does not a "Religious Veiwpoint" make. But go ahead and "frame" it that way if you like - and keep persecuting Christians - and keep irritating agnostic pro-lifers. Peter I'm sure there is a process to get something on a vanity plate. Go ahead and get the ball rolling. Tampa You have a right to live, until the Conservatives decide you deserve death Speaking of deliberately obtuse... If you weren't here, who would buy the "Choose Death" plates? ;-) C'mon gang! Liberals are TOLERANT, remember? Can't even handle a "Choose Life" plate? sheesh.

    Re: 'Choose Life' Plates Will Remain in 5th Circui (none / 0) (#13)
    by cp on Thu Apr 14, 2005 at 09:04:59 PM EST
    i find judge jones' opinion interesting. the tax court has consistently held that license plate fees are not state taxes, they are more in the line of user fees, and therefore not includable as an itemized deduction. Rev. Reg. 1.164-3(c)(1)&(3), of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986, Amended, addresses this very issue. unless the motor vehicle registration fee is ad valorem (based on the value of the vehicle), it is not considered a personal property tax. i suspect louisiana's annual registration fee, as most other state's, is a flat amount, regardless of the vehicle's value. in other words, the mercedes owner pays the same fee as the kia owner. i'm curious to see how these conflicting opinions get squared, since i believe the SC has also upheld the tax court's position on the matter.

    Re: 'Choose Life' Plates Will Remain in 5th Circui (none / 0) (#14)
    by Darryl Pearce on Thu Apr 14, 2005 at 09:35:11 PM EST
    ...I don't have to "choose" death. Nobody's getting out alive anyhow! Death is as natural as birth.

    Re: 'Choose Life' Plates Will Remain in 5th Circui (none / 0) (#15)
    by Johnny on Thu Apr 14, 2005 at 09:52:18 PM EST
    Suuuuure Horse. When it is the religious that create the issue, it is a religious issue. Persecution is something I leave up to the Religionists, sorry. I never said anything about Christians, if you are that insecure about it, try a re-affirmation. I am extremely tolerant Horse-until the gov't endorses a certain religious viewpoint. Separation of church and state in every form is the goal. For example, see how well theocracy has worked in Iran. Anyways, back to the post. I feel that most people would be horrified if I had a license plate that says "Support Radical Islam", especially if it was issued by the government.

    Our source quips: "I guess it could be worse - they could have offered - "Jesus died for our sins
    Wouldnt want truth on a state license plate
    Separation of church and state in every form is the goal.
    The Virginia Statute of Religious Freedom was one of Jefferson's proudest accomplishments - and the basis of the Religions clause in the Bill of Rights. There may be 1st Amendment issues with these plate statements (deciding who gets opportunity and who doesnt) but it would pass this muster.

    No life, no state.

    It's obvious, but the moment we all let license plates get personalized and politicized was a stupid moment indeed. Slippery slope, anyone? Numbers and letters for ID purposes seems to be the best use, indeed the only use. I hope TalkLeft's endorsement of "Choose Life, End the Death Penalty" was tongue-in-cheek. The fact that license plates say anything other than "AXB 546" on a state backgroun (hopefully blank, by the way) is an indication that we are even more under the spell of commercial interests that we think we are. Step back and determine whether your right to get something out there is worth the fact that others can get stuff out there too. Honestly, is my next driver's license going to be pro life or anti-tax, or pro-Mariners, or what? Please give me a license plate that is only a license plate, Freud and Foucault be derned.

    Just to clarify, I really did mean driver's license, not license plate. You can see where this is heading. Some items need to be reserved to identify you as a citizen, perhaps with a license of one kind or another, and NOTHING ELSE. The current political climate encourages political and commercial badges on just about everything in the near future.

    All of this is insane, a nation that has gone mad.

    Re: 'Choose Life' Plates Will Remain in 5th Circui (none / 0) (#21)
    by BigTex on Thu Apr 14, 2005 at 11:52:28 PM EST
    Just because a state action happens to have some touch with a religious doctrine doesn't mean that it fails the Lemon test. Athiest can, and some will, purchase the plates.

    Re: 'Choose Life' Plates Will Remain in 5th Circui (none / 0) (#22)
    by Johnny on Fri Apr 15, 2005 at 12:25:25 AM EST
    The next step is a license plate that says "I am the light of the world" but it would not be an endorsement... It would be on everybodies license plate. Kind of like "The sunshine state" Just like it is on my money and my extremely altered pledge of allegiance. Our currency alone is a violation of church and state.

    Re: 'Choose Life' Plates Will Remain in 5th Circui (none / 0) (#23)
    by bad Jim on Fri Apr 15, 2005 at 03:05:02 AM EST
    In Washington, D.C., license plates commonly read "Taxation without representation." Feisty stuff, and probably too common to be entirely voluntary. (I have no idea how it works; I doubt that my fellow Californians could have opted out of our recent "sesquicentennial" series without buying vanity plates.)

    Re: 'Choose Life' Plates Will Remain in 5th Circui (none / 0) (#24)
    by john horse on Fri Apr 15, 2005 at 04:15:32 AM EST
    In Florida, they claimed that the "Choose Life" license plates had nothing to do with being "pro-life" or anti abortion. They said that this was about being pro adoption. Isn't it interesting that those who are in favor of this (but apparently don't know the arguement used in Florida) see these license plates as being against abortion. What does it say about a bill that those who favor it must knowingly lie in order to pass it?

    Re: 'Choose Life' Plates Will Remain in 5th Circui (none / 0) (#25)
    by pigwiggle on Fri Apr 15, 2005 at 06:52:33 AM EST
    Additionally, what about those folks who disagree with ‘greatest snow on earth’ or ‘world famous potatoes’? And to codify the absurdity – “I think the State should be made to offer …” Here is the single greatest problem with state ‘sponsored’ speech. We all have the same right to speech but hardly the same access. TS, like many, would like to see this access ‘equalized’ through state support/regulation. Consequently the state would necessarily discriminate, as there simply isn’t the tax revenue to express the diversity of opinion. Like TL, most folks would want their particular spin put on whatever phrase was stamped on the plate. To deny folks their particular wording or otherwise offer some compromise to include similar viewpoints discriminates based on viewpoint. The solution is simple; don’t use tax revenue to support/regulate speech. And I couldn’t pass this one by – “Separation of church and state in every form is the goal.” I think a more reasonable goal would be separation of tax revenue and church.

    Re: 'Choose Life' Plates Will Remain in 5th Circui (none / 0) (#26)
    by roger on Fri Apr 15, 2005 at 07:20:29 AM EST
    Let me buy a "Legalize Marijuana" plate, and I'll be satisfied

    Re: 'Choose Life' Plates Will Remain in 5th Circui (none / 0) (#27)
    by veloer on Fri Apr 15, 2005 at 07:35:46 AM EST
    Someone needs to start a Tag for "Choose Choice."

    Re: 'Choose Life' Plates Will Remain in 5th Circui (none / 0) (#28)
    by desertswine on Fri Apr 15, 2005 at 07:46:54 AM EST
    None of this crap should be on license plates. You can buy a sticker and glue it on your bumper if you want. Then it can say any damn thing you want it to.

    It's so hard to believe that so many Anti-Abortion advocates are part of religious groups. We really should do more homework and find out just who those people are. And so what are you, Tamp? Pro-abortion? Johnny, I'm not religious and I would never consider killing my progeny. "There is more between heaven and earth than is dreamt of in your philosophy." -William Shakespeare

    The real issue here is the obsession of the wingnuts to enlist and use their local and federal Govt for political gain. Desertwine is right on point here. Religous fanatics (anti abortion,prayer in schools etc.)are hell bent on IMPOSING their beliefs on others this is their Very Nature and why there is the Principle of Seperation of Church and state. Every one knows you can place any kind of sticker you want on your car. There is great danger when we allow our government to be used by any group for political purposes. This principle should resonate with both consevative and liberals alike.

    Ed, of course, there are no "moon-bats" obsessed, "hell-bent" (good choice of word) trying to inpose their fanatical anti-religious pro-abortion, no religious expression in public (despite the free exercise clause), unaware that "separation of church and state" is not in the constitution types trying to impose their beliefs on others. Some are so brainwashed, they are the very thing they profess to hate, and are not even aware of it.

    TS, like many, would like to see this access ‘equalized’ through state support/regulation. Consequently the state would necessarily discriminate, as there simply isn’t the tax revenue to express the diversity of opinion. I suppose that I am going to have to start labeling paragraphs in which I use sarcasm. I thought it would be clear enough by itself since my second paragraph was written to clearly contradict the statement in the first and was written in a tone of exasperation. I do not believe the state should issue partisan ads in the collection of tax revenues (for any ideology). I believe we have enough rancor forced down our throats through other channels. I feel the same way about advertising and telemarketing. Incidentally, PW might find it interesting to note that I like the idea of allodial title for automobiles and the revamping of our DMV. Of course, instead, I would reinstate emissions inspections and organize it differently than it was done in the 70s. ..and Ace, I don't care to answer a question that should be pretty clear. Your definitional assumption is wrong, as usual. Go watch Ann Coulter or something.

    Re: 'Choose Life' Plates Will Remain in 5th Circui (none / 0) (#33)
    by pigwiggle on Fri Apr 15, 2005 at 06:12:26 PM EST
    “I suppose that I am going to have to start labeling paragraphs in which I use sarcasm.” Sorry I missed it; it’s much clearer in the rereading. I guess it says a great deal about the company I keep. Most would sympathize with the content.

    Doctor You need to see a doctor! Seriously please get some help! You can profess your "faith" your anti life/abortion belief etc. in Public any time you want! Liberals don't give a damn what you believe or think. The problem with you wingnuts is that you want the Govt to impose your Personal/religious/political beliefs on the rest of us. If you don't like abortion don't get one! If you want to pray in school, go ahead. If you want to hate gays, hate away. just don't try to have OUR Govt pass laws or make License plates imposing your beliefs on all of us.

    Re: 'Choose Life' Plates Will Remain in 5th Circui (none / 0) (#36)
    by Che's Lounge on Sat Apr 16, 2005 at 07:38:58 AM EST
    ED, The right to make choices is not on the Doctor's agenda. It's his way or the highway. There are no choices in his world. Ace will straighten us all out on everything. Ace loves to Frist.

    Re: 'Choose Life' Plates Will Remain in 5th Circui (none / 0) (#37)
    by john horse on Sat Apr 16, 2005 at 02:11:34 PM EST
    Even though I don't support the "Choose Life" licenses here in Florida, I fully support them for use in Iraq. By the way, has it ever occurred to most social conservatives that for all the votes they have given to the GOP, all they have to show for their support are inconsequential things like these lousy license plates.