It’s Time for a Choose Life License Plate
in North Carolina
by Rev. Msgr. Michael Clay
In North Carolina, you can obtain a specialty license to support everything from shag dancing to spaying and neutering animals but you cannot purchase a license plate to support pregnancy resource centers that provide parenting classes, free ultrasounds, post-abortion counseling and baby supplies. As a matter of fact, North Carolina is the only state in the southeast with that distinction!
House Bill 168, sponsored by Rep. Mitch Gillespie (R-McDowell), and Senate Bill 210, sponsored by Sen. Austin Allran (R-Catawba-Iredell), want to make it possible for the citizens of North Carolina to obtain the Choose Life license plate. 2010 will mark the eighth year that this bill has been introduced in the House of Representatives. In the previous seven years, it has never been allowed to proceed to the floor for a vote by this chamber while over 120 other plates have sailed through both chambers and on to the backs of vehicles in our state.
Currently 21 states offer the plate and three more have recently approved it. An additional 14 states, including North Carolina, are working with state legislatures to make the plate available to the public. To date, over $10 million has been raised to support the life of the unborn and the newly born.
Some in the legislature have deemed the plate “too controversial.” That seems odd when one considers that the somewhat contentious Sons of Confederate Veterans plate emblazoned with the flag of the Confederacy has been approved. Others in the General Assembly have said that with its passage, the state will be taking sides on the pro-life/pro-choice debate. In response, it has been recommended that those who would like to petition for a pro-choice plate, such as the kind available in Hawaii and Montana, simply find a sponsor to introduce the plate to the legislature.
It is time for North Carolina to have a Choose Life license plate. But like many pro-life bills, it will require an impressive number of vocal and visible voters speaking out on this issue to get this bill out of the committee known facetiously as the “Dead Letter Office” and into a committee that has the power to pass it for a floor vote.
Some have said that the Catholic Church should not get involved in the affairs of government, even something as benign as a specialty plate, citing the First Amendment of the U. S. Constitution as their reference. To do so is to misinterpret the meaning of this amendment.
The article was established to insure that no one Church or denomination (e.g., Catholic, Episcopal, etc.) would be the official Church of the government as was the case in Europe when the Constitution was written. It does not prohibit any faith tradition from speaking out on moral and ethical issues in the interest of the common good of the country.
The same amendment, which also addresses the right to free speech, even protects the right of the Catholic Church and her spokespersons or any other faith tradition to address issues of concern to governmental leaders. This is what makes our nation such a great one. We have the freedom to express ourselves and everyone, including Church officials, is allowed to convey his or her thoughts and beliefs to those who enact laws that will impact the common good of our country.
It is for the common good of our state to have a Choose Life license plate. It secures funds at no expense to state taxpayers to support the unborn, the newly born and their parents at a time when services are being reduced due to budget deficits. It says that free speech is a hallmark of this state and a guaranteed right.
Please do what you can to make this plate available in North Carolina. Here are some practical steps you can take: 1) contact your state Representative and Senator and tell them you want this plate to be made available; 2) sign an online petition in support of the Choose Life plate by going to www.ncchoose-life.org; and 3) attend a rally in support of this plate that will be held in Raleigh on May 25 at 11 a.m. in front of the Legislature Building at 16 W. Jones Street.