This morning, the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) board, voted (4-3) to approve a new specialty license plate with the phrase “One State Under God” and a graphic with three crosses. The new plate is used to support youth outreach to at risk children, through a private entity. This is not the first specialty license plate in Texas to include “God” or a cross. Specialty license plates are already available in Texas with the following phrases: “God Bless Texas”, “God Bless America”, and “One Nation Under God”(on behalf of the Catholic Knights of Columbus group). Specialty license plates are also available in Texas with one or more crosses: El Paso Mission Valley, University of St. Thomas, and Southwestern University. The University of Mary Hardin Baylor uses a church graphic for its specialty plate. There over 130 specialty license plates in Texas that can be purchased by a private individual with a wide variety of messages and symbols.
The phrase “one state under God” is not controversial for Texas. The phrase was added to the pledge to the Texas Flag in 2007 by the Texas Legislature (HB 1034), with only one elected official voting against it. The vote in the Texas Senate was unanimous. In the Texas House, the vote was almost unanimous, with Democrat Donna Howard being the only Texas House member to vote against the phrase “one state under God”.
In 2010, the fifth circuit federal court of appeals upheld the phrase “one state under God” in the Texas pledge as constitutional, after it was challenged by a couple from Dallas.
Leading up to the board meeting, some activist groups that claim to support religious freedom and free speech mounted an online effort to defeat the “Under God” plate.
“The DMV’s vote is a victory for religious freedom and free speech. Private speech, protected by the First Amendment, should not be subjected to second class treatment. The four members of the DMV board made the right decision. Anyone who opposed this plate either doesn’t know the law or has no respect for the First Amendment,” said Jonathan Saenz, Attorney & Director of Legislative Affair for Liberty Institute. Mr. Saenz testified before the DMV board in favor of the new plate.
The National Council of Jewish Women testified against the plate. There was no other opposition at the meeting from the public.