RALEIGH, N.C. (CNS) — The Catholic bishops of North Carolina said they were “deeply saddened” that a federal judge ruled the state cannot issue “Choose Life” license plates without offering a choice of plates with a different viewpoint.
U.S. District Court Judge James C. Fox ruled Dec. 7 that North Carolina’s attempt to offer “Choose Life” plates only is unconstitutional because it is “viewpoint discrimination in violation of the First Amendment.
“The decision by a federal judge to ban the ‘Choose Life’ license plate in North Carolina is a tremendous disappointment,” Bishops Peter J. Jugis of Charlotte and Michael F. Burbidge of Raleigh said in a joint statement.
“We are deeply saddened that North Carolina cannot join the many other states that allow their citizens to display the ‘Choose Life’ plates. We support the effort to encourage the attorney general of our state to appeal this decision.”
Fox ruled on a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of four “pro-choice automobile owners” who contended the “Choose Life” plates were state-sponsored discrimination.
The North Carolina bishops have supported the “Choose Life” license plates since 2008, when Catholic Voice NC was established. It was the first issue that the bishops asked supporters to contact their legislators about.
Catholic Voice NC is a nonpartisan entity that operates under the authority of the state’s two Catholic bishops. It offers free membership to North Carolina residents, and according to its website thousands have joined. Members are often asked to contact their elected representatives to ensure that a Catholic viewpoint is taken into consideration.
Republican state Rep. Mitch Gillespie, who sponsored the “Choose Life” bill in the House, said he will encourage the North Carolina Attorney General’s Office to appeal the decision, the Diocese of Raleigh reported.
According to the Catholic News Herald, Charlotte’s diocesan newspaper, the “Choose Life” plates were approved by the Legislature after a seven-year effort on the part of supporters.
The state already issues specialty license plates for everything from the Blue Ridge Parkway to NASCAR. Opponents of the pro-life plates say the state should offer one that supports legal abortion slogans such as “Respect Choice.”
The cost to drivers for the North Carolina pro-life plate would be an extra $25, with $15 of the fee to be distributed through the Carolina Pregnancy Care Fellowship to education efforts for women considering an abortion.
According to the website of the organization Choose Life Inc., 29 states, including Pennsylvania, have pro-life specialty license plates available to car owners. The organization is working with pro-life groups in 12 other states to make the plates available.
In New York state, the effort to get a pro-life specialty plate has been under way for more than 10 years. Proceeds for the extra fee drivers there would pay for the plate would benefit the Children First Foundation, which encourages adoption.
According to an editorial in the Nov. 29 issue of Catholic New York, newspaper of the New York Archdiocese, lawmakers who oppose the pro-life plate are against them because “its crayon-drawn slogan, ‘Choose Life,’ is not, apparently, politically correct.”
“In fact, in 2004 the state’s Department of Motor Vehicles suspended all new custom plates in a cut-off-your-nose-to-spite-your-face move just so they wouldn’t be forced to accept ‘Choose Life,'” the editorial said. “That means even such worthy sentiments and causes as a 9/11 memorial plate and a Cure Childhood Cancer plate have been turned down-with some 280 organizations blocked in all.”
In a time of crisis CatholicPhilly.com keeps the information flowing
During the current coronavirus crisis, you can help CatholicPhilly.com deliver the kind of news people need to know about the Catholic Church, especially in the Philadelphia region, and the world in which we live ― every day.
Budgets are tight at this time, and CatholicPhilly's is no different than those of most families. We make sure your donation in any amount will go a long way toward continuing our mission to inform, form in the Catholic faith and inspire the thousands of readers who visit every month.
Here is how you can help:
- A $100 gift allows us to present award-winning photos of Catholic life in our neighborhoods.
- A $50 gift enables us to cover a news event in a local parish, school or Catholic institution.
- A $20 gift lets us obtain solid faith formation resources that can deepen your spirituality and knowledge of the faith.
- A small, automated monthly donation means you can support us continually and easily.
Won't you consider making a gift today?
Please join in the church's vital mission of communications by offering a gift in whatever amount that you can ― a single gift of $40, $50, $100, or more, or a monthly donation. Your gift will strengthen the fabric of our entire Catholic community.
Make your donation by credit card here:
Or make your donation by check:
222 N. 17th Street
Philadelphia, PA 19103