SC Lt. Gov. speaks out for ‘free speech’ for Christians

July 7, 2008 at 4:00 pm (Political, Religious) (, , , , )

The political leaders of the Palmetto State continue to push for the production of automobile license plates emblazoned with a Christian cross superimposed upon a stained glass window showcasing the words “I Believe.”

The Burning Taper reported in early June that the authorization to produce Christian license plates in South Carolina became law after Gov. Mark Sanford let it do so without his signature.

Today’s news tells us that actual production of the plates has been postponed due to a federal lawsuit filed against the state by Americans United for Separation of Church and State, which includes Christian, Jewish and Hindu clergy.

Perhaps the reason Gov. Sanford let it become law without his signature is that the measure is apparently the pet project of his lieutenant governor Andre Bauer.

The unmarried, childless Bauer, the nation’s youngest lieutenant governor at age 39, is a member of Union United Methodist Church of Irmo, SC, and apparently is a born-again Christian with one of those personal relationships with Jesus. The CNN story quotes Bauer as saying allowing Christians to have a specialty license plate is freedom of speech. He said those who oppose are prejudiced against Christians.

“We’re not going to back down,” Bauer said. “We’re going to fight for a change. I’m tired of seeing Christians back down in fear of a lawsuit.”

Bauer apparently has many supporters. A quick look at his bio on his personal website indicates he’s risen to his position by tending to the needs of senior citizens, military personnel and law enforcement officers, people typically conservative and religious. In 2006, he was involved in a controversy over his history of speeding tickets and related driving charges, including one traffic stop where he was clocked at 101 mph, and whether he received favorable treatment due to his office. He endorsed former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee during the 2008 Republican primaries.

The Lieutenant Governor has offered to pay the $4,000 fee the Dept. of Motor Vehicles requires to process the request and actually begin production of the plates. The law provides for other religious groups to apply for their own license plates, if they pay the $4,000, but those plates would only allow a symbol, not words, to be shown, and other limits and restrictions would be imposed that are not imposed on the Christian plates.

Americans United for Separation of Church and State’s executive director, Rev. Barry Lynn, said Bauer’s willingness to pay the deposit “more deeply confirms this is a government-sponsored program.”

Lynn’s group said in a news release “that other religions will not be able to get similar license plates expressing differing viewpoints, nor can a comparable ‘I Don’t Believe’ license plate be issued.”

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