A portion of the fees Arizona receives from its “In God We Trust” specialty license plates goes to a Christian Right organization that has been designated a “hate group” by the Southern Poverty Law Center, according to Friendly Atheist.
If you want to buy the specialty “In God We Trust” license plate in Arizona, the state says that $17 of your $25 annual fee “goes to promote the national motto ‘In God We Trust’, 1st amendment rights and the heritage of this state and nation.”
What the state doesn’t tell anyone publicly is that the $17 is sent to Alliance Defending Freedom, the Christian Right organization that is labeled a “hate group” by the Southern Poverty Law Center. In fact, more than a million dollars has been given to the anti-LGBTQ group since the plate was first established in 2008.
But state Sen. Juan Mendez — who is openly atheist — is looking to force transparency on the state government about the destination of the money it collects, proposing a bill “that would create a public list of groups that benefit from those specialty plates.”
The Secular Coalition for Arizona explains more:
Under the new bill, the Department of Transportation would be required to maintain a database with the name and mission of each entity receiving funds from specialty plates. Any driver selecting a specialty plate would also receive information on their registration receipt about the entity funded by their selected plate.
“The legislation establishing this license plate passed as a floor amendment with no discussion — there was no public awareness of what was happening or where the money was going,” says Tory Roberg, the director of government affairs for the Secular Coalition for Arizona… “People who choose the ‘In God We Trust’ plate never know that they’re sending money to ADF. It’s not on the ServiceArizona website, it’s not in the statute establishing the plate, it’s nowhere.”
“Arizonans deserve to know exactly where their tax dollars are going,” says Nick Fish, president of American Atheists… “ADF’s record as an anti-LGBTQ, anti-religious equality hate group isn’t up for debate. Arizona taxpayers are unwittingly funding attacks on the rights of their neighbors and loved ones under the false pretense of protecting religious liberty.”
Mendez introduced a separate bill, SB 1463, that would nix the “In God We Trust” license plate altogether, which appears to be the only legal path to keeping the money from reaching ADF.
“Hopefully in the future we can put in place some common sense guidelines that would bar hate groups from earning money through Arizona license plates,” says Mendez. “State dollars should not be funding an organization that works to strip residents of our state of their human rights and human dignity. It’s appalling that we’ve already sent over a million dollars to this extremist hate group.”
Will these bills pass? There’s no reason the first one should fail, but Republicans will almost certainly push back against the second one. Still, by filing these bills, Sen. Mendez is alerting citizens to the fact that their license plates could unwittingly be funding anti-LGBTQ hate. That’s no small feat.