Arizona Agency Gets "Award" for Blocking Pro-Life License Plates

State   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Apr 20, 2004   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Arizona Agency Gets "Award" for Blocking Pro-Life License Plates

by Paul Nowak Staff Writer
April 20, 2004

Phoenix AZ( — A free speech organization has recognized the Arizona State License Commission, granting it a "Jefferson Muzzle" for its rejection of the "Choose Life" license plate in August.

The awards, issued to identify "egregious and ridiculous acts of censorship," are announced every year on Jefferson’s birthday, April 13.

The Jefferson Center cited Kris Meyers, a spokesperson for pro-abortion Governor Janet Napolitano who defended the rejection, stating "[I]n general, the reason they [denied] it is because it’s a very contentious and divisive issue that is not appropriate for a license plate."

"Regardless of one’s view on the abortion issue, the government cannot exercise unbridled discretion in determining the topics that are appropriate for public discourse," states the Thomas Jefferson Center’s website. "For creating a public forum but then trying to control the topics discussed in it, the Arizona State License Commission earns a 2004 Jefferson Muzzle."

"We don’t agree with them on everything," said Len Munsil, an attorney and president of the Center for Arizona Policy, a state pro-life group, "but the Jefferson Center’s award just goes to show that even groups with a more liberal perspective on the First Amendment recognize that turning down the ‘Choose Life’ plate was censorship, plain and simple."

The Arizona Life Coalition, a network of pro-life groups in the state, had filed suit on September 4, alleging that the state’s License Place Commission, by denying the "Choose Life" plate design, violated their right to free speech. The suit alleges that the reason given, that the "Choose Life" slogan was too controversial and the group did not benefit the community widely enough, was not sufficient reason to discriminate against the pro-life group, which intended to use its $17 share of the $25 registration fee to help crisis pregnancy centers in Arizona.

Some groups that have been approved by the Arizona License Plate Commission include the University of Phoenix, a for-profit entity, as well as other non-profits: the Fire Fighter’s Union, the Fraternal Order of Police, the Legion of Valor, and the Wildlife Conservation Council.

"We will pursue every legal option to stand up for the women and children of Arizona who need this critical support," Shane Wikfors, Executive Director of Arizona Right to Life told "[They] don’t seem to understand that every dollar raised will help women who have decided to choose life. During these financially challenging times, the Arizona Life Coalition has stepped up to the plate to offer a private sector solution to the problem of crisis pregnancies."

The Arizona Attorney General’s Office recommended in October that the suit be dropped, citing that there was no right to free speech on a license plate despite the fact that many other for-profit and non-profit groups have been allowed to have plates made benefiting their organizations.

Related Sites:

The Thomas Jefferson Center for the Protection of Free Speech 2004 Jefferson Muzzles: