At a church meeting that included South Carolina’s lieutenant governor and attorney general, Rev. Arnold Hiette had stern words of warning for those involved in a lawsuit seeking to stop production of a state license plate with a Christian message.
“Red-faced and angry, shaking his fist alongside his Bible,” reported the Spartanburg Herald-Journal, “Hiette told the congregation that the four complainants — especially the Unitarian — and one judge who took away the people’s right to witness via their vehicle tags ‘along with the ACLU, they’re going to burn in hell.’”
And we’ll know they are Christians by their love and their license plates.
Last month, a federal judge ruled that South Carolina must stop making a specialty plate that features the image of a cross and the words “I Believe.” Atty. Gen. Henry McMaster is urging the state’s Department of Motor Vehicles to appeal the ruling.
The case was brought by Americans United for Separation of Church and State on behalf of several South Carolina clergy members, including a Unitarian. The AU’s lawsuit claimed the new plate violates the Constitution.
“I wish our legislators would read the Constitution as avidly as they read public opinion polls,” Rev. Dr. Neal Jones, the Unitarian minister, wrote last fall in a column for the Herald-Journal.
McMaster and Lt. Gov. Andre Bauer both are considered potential gubernatorial candidates in 2010.
At Tuesday’s prayer meeting/protest, Bauer — who introduced the legislation to make “I Believe” plates — called on Christians to fight for their right to profess their faith on government-manufactured metal plates. “I don’t understand why witnessing in public is considered unconstitutional. You don’t even have to be a Christian to believe everyone deserves the freedom of speech,” he said.
Obviously he’s right. He doesn’t understand. Perhaps one of the hell-bound plaintiffs can explain: “If people want to proclaim their faith on their cars, there are a number of bumper stickers and emblems that can do the job,” Rev. Thomas A. Summers, a retired United Methodist minister, wrote this week in a commentary for Religion News Service.
“Just don’t expect the government of South Carolina — or any government, for that matter — to help you spread the message. It’s not the government’s job, and none of us should want it to be.”
If Bauer and McMaster want to preach, maybe they should go into the bumper sticker business.