New Jersey Pro-Life Group Goes to Court Over Choose Life Plates
by Paul Nowak
LifeNews.com Staff Writer
May 10, 2004
Trenton, NJ (LifeNews.com) — The struggle to get a "Choose Life" pro-adoption license plate on cars in New Jersey now goes to the courts, as the pro-adoption group supporting the plate has filed suit Tuesday against the state’s Motor Vehicle Commission for arbitrarily denying their submission.
The plate, which shows a child-like drawing of two children and the phrase "Choose Life," has been rejected twice, first in November of 2003, and in January after the plate was redesigned to overcome objections by the Commission’s Chief Administrator.
CFF now claims they have suffered over $200,000 in lost funding from the plates which were rejected by state officials with "unbridled discretion" and "arbitrary authority."
Originally, MVC Chief Administrator Diane Legreide rejected the plate because it included the phrase "Choose Life," as "slogans" were no longer permitted on license plates — despite the fact that many organizations, such as the Knights of Columbus and the Center for Food Action have slogans on their license plates in New Jersey. CFF’s slogan is not "Choose Life" but "Adoption … It’s a Good Choice."
In comments to the media, Legreide "stated that a plate carrying CFF’s domain name and ‘identifying the organization would have been acceptable’ and ‘fine.’," stated a CFF news release.
Following her rejection of the original design, Legreide reaffirmed CFF’s eligibility in writing, and offered to "gladly work with [CFF] to get an approved plate design manufactured as soon as possible."
CFF, guided by Legreide’s comments, submitted a new plate design that replaced the slogan with their website address: https://www.NJChoose-Life.org.
That submission was rejected in January, much to the disappointment of CFF, who has now filed suit for violation of the First Amendment rights of CFF. The suit is being handled by the Alliance Defense Fund.
"New Jersey’s plate program is open to all eligible non-profit organizations, with one bigoted exception: those with a pro-life message," said Michael Johnson, counsel with ADF. "Others may exercise their freedom of speech on license plates, but not Children First Foundation. This is unconstitutional and amounts to viewpoint discrimination by the State."
The lawsuit alleges that pro-abortion Governor James McGreevey and Attorney General Peter Harvey were consulted prior to the second rejection, and names them as well as the Legreeide and her replacement at the MVC, Sharon Harrington.
"As long as decisions are made by whim, Children First Foundation will continue to suffer irreparable harm, discrimination, and financial damage," Johnson said. "New Jersey crisis pregnancy centers and maternity homes would have been the primary beneficiaries of the substantial funds raised by the sale of license plates. Many New Jersey women and infant children are now prevented from obtaining free vital services because of the state’s discrimination against Children First Foundation."