‘I Believe’ plates now available

COLUMBIA — South Carolina drivers can buy religious license plates that feature three crosses and a sunrise, 21/2 years after a federal judge declared a previous legislative effort for the “I Believe” tags unconstitutional.

The new tags are sponsored by the nonprofit organization www.IBELIEVEsc.net as allowed under state law.

The tag is a nonpolitical way for Christians of all denominations to share their faith, said Adrian Grimes, a spokeswoman for the group’s upcoming rollout of the plate.

A federal judge ruled in 2009 that “I Believe” tags that legislators created through a state law violated the First Amendment ban on establishment of religion by government.

That plate featured a cross and stained-glass window.

The new plates show the nonprofit’s name across the top, with the letters “JC” between the image of three crosses on a hill and the license number.

A spokesman for Ameri­cans United for Separation of Church and State, which was among groups that sued over the 2008 law, said it sees no constitutional problem with these plates.

“As long as all groups have the same access to the process, it doesn’t raise constitutional issues,” said spokesman Joseph Conn.

State law allows nonprofit groups to create specialty plates by either collecting 400 prepaid applications or making a $4,000 deposit.

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