New Jersey Governor Chris Christie Asked to Allow Choose Life License Plates
by Steven Ertelt
August 9, 2010
Trenton, NJ (LifeNews.com) — The pro-life group that has had problems trying to get its Choose Life license plates approved by the state of New Jersey is hoping the election of pro-life Governor Chris Christie will give its efforts a breath of fresh air. The Children First Foundation has been fighting the state Department of Motor Vehicles for years.
After having their proposal for a pro-adoption specialty plate rejected because of the slogan "Choose Life," the Children First Foundation (CFF) submitted a new plate design that was rejected too.
In response, the group filed a lawsuit and a federal judge, in July 2006, refused to dismiss the civil rights lawsuit brought against New Jersey officials.
A federal appeals court revived the effort in April. While a state judge agreed with local officials in their bid to dismiss a lawsuit challenging the rejection of the plates, an appeals court said that was "viewpoint discrimination."
Now, CFF president Elizabeth Rex is asking Christie to drop the lawsuit.
We are asking Gov. Christie to ask his new (Motor Vehicle Commission) chief administrator, Ray Martinez, to approve our plate without further delay, Rex told the Star-Ledger newspaper. It would help the state resolve this issue. … These plates do make money for the state without raising taxes or cutting spending.
CFF submitted 2,500 petition signatures and a check for $12,500 in February to cover the first 500 Choose Life license plates.
The original application was rejected during the administration of pro-abortion Gov. Jim McGreevey and Rex told the newspaper she did not reapply during the administrations of pro-abortion Govs. Dick Codey and Jon Corzine because she expected them to reject the plates, which raise money for adoption.
Ironically, Martinez, the new motor vehicle chief under Christie, is from New York where CFF has also had problems getting the Choose Life plate approved.
The newspaper said representatives of both Christie and Martinez did not comment for its news story.
Meanwhile, the lawsuit is heading back to U.S. District Judge Joel A. Pisano to act on the appeals court decision and move ahead with the lawsuit.
Jeff Shafter, senior legal director of the Alliance Defense Fund, a pro-life legal group that helped the Children First Foundation, responded to the news.
"The government should not be singling out a pro-adoption group for censorship. Censoring the ‘Choose Life’ logo on New Jersey license plates is a textbook case of viewpoint discrimination, which blatantly defies the First Amendment," he said. We are pleased that the appellate court has reinstated this lawsuit and look forward to the full vindication of the foundations free speech rights.
The plate was initially declared to be too controversial and political in May 2004 and officials later attempted to amend their censorship justification, saying the plate was rejected because it contained advocacy. But as the lawsuit points out, the New Jersey special plate program was designed for advocacy, and the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission has approved specialty plates for other organizations that present advocacy messages.
CFF says the proceeds from the plates would go to crisis pregnancy centers, maternity homes and nonprofit adoption agencies.
So far, at least 18 states have Choose Life license plates on the road. New Jersey has dozens of "organization plates," including ones for veterans and civic organizations.
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