It’s legal for a state seal to appear on a vehicle license plate, even if that state seal includes the slogan “In God We Trust.”
That’s what the First Liberty Institute has informed Mississippi officials after they were told by the American Humanist Association that such an action was unconstitutional.
“The Supreme Court has consistently indicated that the national motto plainly does not advance religion, serves a secular purpose of promoting patriotism, and is simply a reference to our religious heritage,” the letter explained.
It was sent by the institute to Herb Frierson, the commissioner of the state Department of Revenue, regarding the dispute over the license plates.
“Courts have repeatedly deemed our national motto constitutional,” said Jeremy Dys, deputy general counsel to First Liberty Institute. “Expressing the national motto – through private or government speech – is a part of our national heritage and long a part of our history. Government officials in Mississippi should ignore these outside activists’ attempts to bully them with dubious legal claims.”
The institute explained a new standard Mississippi license plate has been on sale since the start of this year.
The center of the plate displays the state seal, which includes the national motto, “In God We Trust,” which triggered the American Humanist Association’s complaint.
First Liberty Institute is suing the American Humanist Association at the Supreme Court in the matter of The American Legion, et al. v. American Humanist Association, et al.
The letter notes, “The national motto is constitutional and Mississippi can put its state seal containing ‘In God We Trust’ on its license plates without running afoul of the U.S. Constitution.”
The letter explained Justice William Brennan once observed, “We have simply interwoven the motto [In God We Trust] so deeply into the fabric of our civil polity that its present use may well not present that type of involvement which the First Amendment prohibits.”
In fact, “every federal circuit court to have considered the national motto has upheld it as constitutional,” the letter said.
“Any attempts to remove the phrase … from public display on the grounds that it somehow violates the Establishment of Religion Clause of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution is entirely unfounded.”
Further, courts have found that what the license plates state is considered “government speech.”