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I Believe . . . South Carolina Just Got Schooled On the First Amendment

By: Zac Papantoniou

“Whatever else the Establishment Clause may mean (and we have held it to mean no official preference even for religion over nonreligion), . . . it certainly means at the very least that government may not demonstrate a preference for one particular sect or creed (including a preference for Christianity over other religions). The clearest command of the Establishment Clause is that one religious denomination cannot be officially preferred over another.” – U.S. District Judge Cameron McGowan Currie, ruling in the case of Summers et al v. Adams et al, quoting from Supreme Court Justice Harry Blackmun’s majority opinion in County of Allegheny v. ACLU Greater Pittsburgh Chapter, 492 U.S. 573, 590 (1989)

On Tuesday, a federal district court judge ruled that a special Christian-themed license plate, mandated by the South Carolina legislature, was unconstitutional. U.S. District Judge Cameron McGowan Currie held, in Summers et al v. Adams et al, that the “special” Christian-themed plate (which was to bear a large cross superimposed on a stained-glass window and the words “I Believe”) clearly gave favored government treatment to one faith and ordered state officials not to issue the plate.

“The ‘I Believe’ Act’s primary effect is to promote a specific religion, Christianity.” – Judge Currie, in her written Opinion and Order for Summary Judgment

After a similar “I Believe” effort failed in Florida (see our posts on it: here and here), South Carolina’s lieutenant-governor, Andre Bauer, initiated legislation with the purpose of creating the “special” Christian-themed plate; that legislation was authorized last year by the South Carolina General Assembly (source). Unfortunately for Mr. Bauer and the South Carolina legislature, Judge Currie happens to be well-versed in Constitutional law and history (not to mention the First Amendment)!

The United States Supreme Court has repeatedly warned that “government may not promote or affiliate itself with any religious doctrine or organization [. . .] This limitation on government action is based on the clear understanding of our founders that “a union of government and religion tends to destroy government and to degrade religion” (citations omitted). – Judge Currie, in her written Opinion and Order for Summary Judgment

Even better, Judge Currie’s seemingly most-pointed words were focused on the pivotal role Lt. Gov. Bauer played in initiating, and stumping for, the introduction of the unconstitutional legislation. As if she was admonishing a young child, Judge Currie wrote in the ruling, “Such a law amounts to state endorsement not only of religion in general, but of a specific sect in particular . . . Whether motivated by sincerely held Christian beliefs or an effort to purchase political capital with religious coin, the result is the same . . . The statute is clearly unconstitutional, and defense of its implementation has embroiled the state in unnecessary (and expensive) litigation.” (source).

Bauer responded to the ruling . . . by verbally attacking Judge Currie, calling her a “liberal judge appointed by (President) Bill Clinton . . . using her personal wishes to overrule the Legislature and the will of the thousands of South Carolinians who want to purchase the tags.” (source).

Bauer further cemented his nomination for “Whiny Ass-Hat of the Week” when he conclusively said that the ruling represented “another attack on Christianity.” (source).

Yeah, that must be it; obviously, Judge Currie’s ruling was just a thinly disguised declaration of war on Christianity. Not a well-researched, eloquently-written opinion, based on precedent set by (among others) the Supreme Court of the United States (like most second-year law students with half a brain, in their third week of Constitutional Law, would reasonably deduce) . . . nope, like Bauer said, clearly an “attack on Christianity.” In fact, I’m sure Judge Currie was sitting in her chambers, writing the opinion and ruling (all while drumming her fingers against one another ala Montgomery Burns), cackling aloud for no one in particular to hear, while thinking, “This ruling will serve as the pièce de résistance in plan for a one-woman, Rambo-like attack on Christianity! Mwah-ha-ha-ha-ha!!!”

Judge Cameron McGowan Currie did her job, plain and simple. She upheld the Constitution, ruled on precedent, and rewarded those who would attempt to subvert our founding fathers’ ideals, by awarding fees to the party that fought against those attempts. South Carolina’s lieutenant-governor, Andre Bauer, placed personal beliefs over the Constitution of the United States of America, and for that, I think he’s a whiny, ass-hat, that wouldn’t know his private parts from his elbow when it comes to matters of Constitutional law.

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