Reader doesn’t need protection from controversy


I am again reminded of how people in power think they know more than us “little people.” I just received an email from the (Jewish Alliance of Greater Rhode Island’s) Community Relations Council applauding Governor Lincoln Chafee for denying “a faith-based organization [the ability] to offer the public the opportunity to purchase a ‘Choose Life’ license plate.”

Its reasons were these: First, a “clear violation of the separation of church and state.”

Can we please stop treating this as law? The phrase comes from a letter written by Thomas Jefferson; period. The actual text of the First Amendment that refers to religion is this: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof …” The license plate bill did not respect any religion, nor prohibit exercising thereof. So, this argument is invalid.

Second, “No controversial issue should be promoted as it can clearly be inferred as a state position.”

Seriously? We need to be protected from controversy? If I’m a Yankees fan, should I be offended by Massachusetts granting special Red Sox plates? If I think manatees are delicious appetizers, can I take offense at a Florida “Save the Manatee” license plate?

These specialized license plates allow the state and some organizations to raise money. If you raise arguments against it on those grounds, feel free. But don’t use the “separation of church and state” canard and “it’s controversial” argument – those prohibit my freedom of speech, and doing so offends me.

Michael Frank