Mississippi motorists who require new car tags this year will receive a license plate consisting of the state seal and the national motto: “In God We Trust.” While other states, such as Georgia, Florida, South Carolina, Alaska, and Tennessee, offer drivers specialty tags that include “In God We Trust,” Mississippi’s version is standard and will be issued to every motorist.
In May of 2018, Republican Governor Phil Bryant revealed the new license plate in a twitter message. He stated, “I was proud to sign legislation in 2014 that added the United States National Motto, ‘In God We Trust,’ to the Mississippi State Seal. Today, I am equally delighted to announce that it will adorn our new Mississippi license plates.”
The new license plate was issued for the first time in January of 2019. The middle of the tag contains a depiction of an eagle. The top of the license plate consists of the phrase, “The Great Seal Of The State Of Mississippi” while the bottom of it showcases “In God We Trust.” The tag will take the place of the version that featured famed blues legend B.B. King.
Unsurprisingly, not everyone is thrilled with Mississippi’s new license plate. The American Humanist Organization maintained the tags are unconstitutional. The group contended, “Unlike the use of ‘In God We Trust’ on money, which is only visible if one makes an affirmative effort to read it, the larger public display of ‘In God We Trust’ on motor vehicles, alongside bumper stickers and other signage, more clearly makes a statement endorsing the theistic assumptions underlying the phrase.”
The American Humanist Organization also argued, “The problem, obviously, is that many individuals do not believe in a God, let alone trust in him, her, or it.”
The president of the Mississippi Center for Public Policy, Jon Pritchett, vehemently disagreed with opponents of the new tag. He wrote, “We have been misinformed and misled by generations of public policy, education, and media leaders on the so-called ‘separation of church and state.” Pritchett went on to say, “The concept has been so pervasive that we generally accept the idea that it is inappropriate to bring any faith-based ideas to the public square. The idea that we should separate religion — of any faith or denomination — from politics is not only false, it is virtually impossible.”
Governor Bryant is no stranger to controversy regarding religious freedom issues. In 2016, the conservative politician signed House Bill 1523, also referred to as the Protecting Freedom of Conscience from Government Discrimination Act, into law. The law “protects the beliefs that marriage is the union of one man and one woman, sex outside such a marriage is improper and gender is determined by anatomy and genetics at birth and cannot change.” House Bill 1523 permits businesses to decline to provide marriage-affiliated services to same-sex couples and lets judges, justices of the peace, and magistrates refuse to perform same-sex wedding ceremonies.
After Governor Bryant signed the bill into law in 2106, a Mississippi-based federal judge blocked it. The judge concluded the measure unconstitutionally permitted “arbitrary discrimination” against unmarried individuals and LGBT people. However, the federal judge’s ruling was overturned by the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. In January of 2018, the United States Supreme Court refused to listen to an appeal of the case upholding the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals’ decision.
At the time, Kevin Theriot, a senior lawyer for Alliance Defending Freedom, said, “Good laws like Mississippi’s protect freedom and harm no one.” The attorney, who helped draft the original bill and represented Governor Bryant’s appeal pro bono, went on to state, “The 5th Circuit was right to find that those opposing this law haven’t been harmed and, therefore, can’t try to take it down. Because of that, we are pleased that the Supreme Court declined to take up these baseless challenges, which misrepresented the law’s sole purpose of ensuring that Mississippians don’t live in fear of losing their careers or their businesses simply for affirming marriage as a husband-wife union.”
Regarding the highest court in the land’s decision, Governor Bryant remarked, “As I have said from the beginning, this law was democratically enacted and is perfectly constitutional. The people of Mississippi have the right to ensure that all of our citizens are free to peacefully live and work without fear of being punished for their sincerely held religious beliefs.”
~ 1776 Christian