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"I Believe" License Plates Get New Legal Ally

2:19 PM, Nov 12, 2009   |    comments
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Columbia, SC (WLTX, AP) --  After a federal judge said South Carolina could not issue license plates that feature a cross in front of a stained glass window and the phrase "I Believe," a Christian group filed paperwork to reserve rights to the phrase.

Officials with the Palmetto Family Council said in a Thursday news release that the group "took legal steps" to reserve "I Believe" as an associated entity of the faith-based organization.

Controversy over the plate arose after some said it violated the separation of church and state.

Dr. Oran P. Smith, the President of the group, said in the news release, "The tag will provide South Carolinians another way to share their faith."

Smith says his group's version of the license tag "should face no legal impediment." Smith told News19 Thursday afternoon that his group's version of the tag would not change any of the imagery currently featured on the plate.

Smith says the main difference between the current plate and the modified plate is that it is sponsored by a private group and not the state.

Groups including Americans United for Separation of Church and State and American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee challenged the state's ability to put a religious message on a state license tag.

Smith said his group's plan is to sponsor the tag would make it like any other license plate that is sponsored by a private group.

The judge who originally ruled on the case, U.S. District Judge Cameron Currie, said the case was a textbook example of the need to observe limits on the government promotion of religion.

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