At the same time HB 4147, the bill that requires public schools to allow all and any form of public religious expression to take place anywhere and any time on school property was introduced, another house bill, HB 4140 was sponsored and sent to committee. This bill is just as ridiculous, but for completely different reasons. It’s not alone either, for over in the Senate there is an almost identical bill called S 84. These bills are almost identical because they are written by an organization from Florida called Choose Life Inc. The founder of this organization is ultraconservative former county commissioner and plumber Randy Harris.
What do these bills want to do?
Both bills, if passed, would require the state to offer an anti-choice license plate with the phrase “choose life” on it and make it available for sale at the Secretary of State offices in the state.
But wait, there’s more!
A license plate fund raiser that anti-choice groups can use to pay for facilities that coerce and scare women into not having an abortion, and media campaigns that shame and humiliate women possibly considering abortions. All of this maintained and managed by our public institutions paid for by our tax dollars. The problem with this of course is the first amendment of the U.S. Constitution, but also Article 1, Section 4 of the Michigan State Constitution.
Every person shall be at liberty to worship God according to the dictates of his own conscience. No person shall be compelled to attend, or, against his consent, to contribute to the erection or support of any place of religious worship, or to pay tithes, taxes or other rates for the support of any minister of the gospel or teacher of religion. No money shall be appropriated or drawn from the treasury for the benefit of any religious sect or society, theological or religious seminary; nor shall property belonging to the state be appropriated for any such purpose. The civil and political rights, privileges and capacities of no person shall be diminished or enlarged on account of his religious belief.
The Senate and House bills, because they’re identical, violate both Federal and State constitutions. If these bills were to become law, the chances of lawsuits being filed seem likely. In North Carolina, the ACLU successfully sued the state assembly in that state because they refused to allow pro-choice license plates, but voted in favor of the Choose Life fund plates. That ruling is currently on appeal. In Michigan in 1995, Pam O’Leary was told by then Secretary of State Candace Miller she had to surrender her vanity license plates because they read 4 RU 486 on them. The S.O.S office later backed down when it became public they had also approved anti-choice vanity plates but had no intention of demaning their surrender.
Of course, if these plates are approved, then pro-choice plates would have to be approved too, and provided the same benefits of the Choose Life fund plates. The S.O.S would have to allow a design for the plate, the sale of the plate would go to the State Treasury, and the State Treasurer would have to disburse those funds to pro-choice programs and media campaigns informing women of their legal reproductive health care choices.
Randy Harris, the man in Florida responsible for the Choose Life fund is ultraconservative and used his multiple terms as county commissioner to push his conservative agenda. These days he is back in the private sector and identifies as a member of the tea party. He felt the need to create the fund because according to him, women had no other choice but Planned Parenthood, and they tell women to have abortions. Completely false, of course, as most of Planned Parenthood’s services have nothing to do with abortion, but provide women’s health care and other health services for both women and men.
If the Choose Life plate is approved, will the Michigan State Legislature also approve a pro-choice plate? If not, that could mean the anti-choice license plate violates state and federal laws. Perhaps in the future, our elected officials will take the time to read the constitution and make sure the bills they pass don’t violate our laws as S 84 and HB 4140 clearly do.