The Passion Of The Plate: S.C. Officials Pontificate At 'I Believe' Tag Rally

The debate over the South Carolina "I Believe" license plate rages on.

At least for South Carolina Attorney General Henry McMaster and Lt. Governor Andre Bauer, who continue to mislead South Carolinians on what Americans United's lawsuit challenging the production of these plates is really about.

According to the Greenville News, more than 500 people showed up last night at Temple Baptist Church in Simpsonville, S.C., to support the license tags and see "celebrities" McMaster and Bauer, who happily signed autographs after feeding the audience their usual shameless propaganda.

McMaster and Bauer have been advocating for the plate since last year, when the South Carolina General Assembly unanimously voted to create this tag, which features a yellow Christian cross superimposed on a stained-glass church window with the words "I Believe."

Bauer agreed to put up his own funds to begin the production of the plates and he, along with other state legislators, admitted publicly that they would not vote for a similar honorific for other religions.

Americans United brought a lawsuit on behalf of two Christian clergy, a Unitarian minister, a Jewish rabbi and two organizations representing minority religious faiths in South Carolina. In December, we won a victory when U.S. District Judge Cameron McGowan Currie temporarily blocked the issuance of the "Christian" plate.

At the rally yesterday, those in attendance watched a montage of Mel Gibson's movie, "The Passion of the Christ," set to music, and listened as McMaster railed against Judge Currie's decision.

The Constitution guarantees freedom "of religion, not freedom from religion," he said. "Some of our courts don't understand" the difference.

Not surprisingly, McMaster forgot to mention the rest of the Constitution, which promises that the government will not favor one religious belief over others and also guarantees equality for all.

Bauer and McMaster, both of whom are reportedly considering runs for governor, claim our lawsuit is war on religion and attack our plaintiffs as being anti-Christian.

"Nothing could be farther from the truth," said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, Americans United executive director, in a press statement. "We brought this lawsuit because the state legislature created a special license plate for the Christian faith in violation of the Constitution. All religions should be equal in America, and the government must not favor one over others."

At a similar rally held in Greer, S.C. two months ago, the Rev. Arnold Hiette, who hosted the event in his People's Baptist Church, made our plaintiffs the targets of his hateful sermon and said they will "burn in hell" for opposing these plates.

It's unfortunate that many in South Carolina refuse to see the truth behind this lawsuit. More than 800 people have signed a petition in support of the Christian tag, and the host of yesterday's rally, the Rev. Brad Whitt, told the Greenville News that he hopes public support for the plate will influence the trial judge's decision.

In the meantime, Americans United's attorneys will continue to prepare for trial to finally end this plate debate. We're confident that in a court of law, the Constitution will carry more weight than this petition drive.