Part of me thought, the minute I saw this Indiana-based story, "You know, I should have young master Daniel Pulliam write about this one, seeing as how he is our authority on all things Hoosier." But then I thought, "Wait a minute. Daniel's on his honeymoon. He probably wouldn't be too happy if I rang him up and asked him to write a post." This is why you won't see the young man on this site for a few days. Maybe. That depends on how selfish, arrogant, unthoughtful and stressed-out I am (wink, wink). I am sure Pulliam the younger will check in when he can.
Meanwhile, the Los Angeles Times does have an interesting story about a rather symbolic church-state tussle in the heartland city of Fort Wayne, Indiana. Here's the key question: If it's OK to have "In God We Trust" on standard-issue money, then why isn't it OK to have the national motto on a standard-issue Indiana automobile license plate?
Ah, but what if this faith-based "standard" plate is different from another plate that Indiana also considers a "standard" offering? Why should supporters of the environment, education, the arts, breast-cancer research and, another cause with religious implications, the Indianapolis Colts, pay extra while God is standard issue? There are, after all, 75 non-standard Indiana license plates.
But stop and think about this for a moment: If the state charged extra for the "In God We Trust" plate, into what cause or fund would that money go?
Reporter P.J. Huffstutter tells us the story of environmental plate owner Mark Studler, which leads us to this:
Last week, the American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana filed a lawsuit, on behalf of Studler, in state court against the Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles and Commissioner Ronald L. Stiver. The complaint challenges a law that lets motorists get the "In God We Trust" design without paying the $15 administrative fee.
The state says the new "In God We Trust" plate is not a specialty plate -- like dozens of others it offers -- but rather a second "standard" plate, like the one that features a pastoral scene, and is thus not subject to special fees. State officials say the plate, introduced in January, has been a hit, chosen by more than 540,000 motorists. That means that had the state charged the $15 fee, it would have an additional $8 million in its coffers.
"The issue isn't the message. It's not about religion," said Ken Falk, legal director for the ACLU of Indiana ... .
"It's about making sure that nearly every other plate that carries a message has a cost attached to it, and this does not," Falk said. "In a state that's as religious as Indiana, the phrase 'In God We Trust' is not just about supporting the national motto. It's about saying you believe in God."
That would seem to make sense. The words on that license plate may have something to do with believing in God and, you know, you gotta watch out for all those Americans who say that they believe in God.
But seriously, there seems to be sticky church-state separation issues whichever way the state goes.
Nevertheless, this story left me curious about one rather basic and, come to think of it, non-faith-based question. Does anyone know if any other states in the union have more than one "standard" license plate? If another state does, what's the issue in Indiana? I'm curious, and the search terms are so common that it is hard to learn this via a quick online search.