An Arizona state lawmaker is trying to get rid of "In God We Trust" specialty license plates because he says an "extremist hate group" is benefiting from each purchase. The non-profit says it is the victim of a "misinformation campaign."
Democratic state Sen. Juan Mendez introduced a bill seeking to bar the Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT) from selling the plate with the national motto because proceeds go to the Scottsdale-based religious freedom law firm, Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF).
Arizona allows non-profit organizations, like ADF and the University of Arizona, to create specialty plates. A portion of the purchase, no tax dollars, go to the group.
The Secular Coalition for Arizona, a group that opposes religion in government, directed Mendez to find out where the money from the plates was going, AZ Central reported.
“Hopefully in the future, we can put in place some commonsense guidelines that would bar hate groups from earning money through Arizona license plates,” Mendez said in a statement. “State dollars should not be funding an organization that works to strip residents of our state of their human rights and human dignity."
ADF, which has won several religious liberty cases at the Supreme Court, has been labeled a "hate group" by the left-leaning Southern Poverty Law Center. ADF was involved in a Phoenix case challenging the city's gay anti-discrimination ordinance and the Hobby Lobby case regarding a business' right not to provide contraceptive coverage to their employees for religious purposes.
On ADOT's website, the "In God We Trust" plates state that profits go to promote "the motto, First Amendment rights, 'and the heritage of this state and nation.'"
ADF said it should have every right to benefit from the plates it created, just like every other group in the state that designed a specialty plate to express its viewpoint. There are about 60 different specialty plates offered for purchase in the state.
“It’s disappointing to see elected officials become uncritical pawns in these ugly propaganda campaigns,” Kristen Waggoner, ADF Senior Vice President of U.S. legal division, said in a statement. "The SPLC did good work years ago, but they’ve been widely discredited for decades by investigative journalists, charity watchdogs, and commentators as activist, partisan, and unreliable.”
Mendez put forth two bills, one which change the disclosure requirements of the specialty plate program, but the other would repeal the "In God We Trust" plates that have been in place since 2008. The latter bill is opposed by ADF.
“Rather than shutting down speech, they should add to the conversation with their own perspective,” Waggoner said. “That’s how free speech works in this country.”