Civitas Review

The ACLU's Selective "Free Speech" Crusade


As reported in today's N&O, the ACLU has filed a lawsuit challenging the recently-approved "Choose Life" license plate in North Carolina.

A federal lawsuit filed Thursday seeks to void a new law establishing a "Choose Life" license plate in North Carolina, saying it violates the First Amendment.

The American Civil Liberties Union filed the lawsuit on behalf of four "pro-choice automobile owners" who contend that the license plate constitutes state-sponsored discrimination. The organization is seeking an injunction to block the plate's issuance as it nears the required 300 applications.

"The state is opening up a forum to one side of the argument," said Katherine Lewis Parker, the state's ACLU legal director. "When they do that, they are constitutionally obligated to open to the other side."

The law offers no alternative to express the opposite viewpoint. Six attempts to amend the legislation to include "Respect Choice" plates or "Trust Women. Respect Choice" plates failed, she said.

You can view a copy of the complaint here. Interestingly, one of the plaintiffs listed with the ACLU is Dean Debnam, CEO of Public Policy Polling. We've previously pointed out Debnam's conflicts of interests regarding his close involvement with issues his firm polls on, this issue may be another one worth keeping an eye on.

Furthermore, a review of the legislation approving the "Choose Life" plate shows that there are several approved plates that open "a forum to one side of the argument." If the ACLU is to be consistent, then they should apply their same standards to all the approved plates "to open to the other side" of the argument.

Some examples:

  • For the "Support NC Education" plate, we need a "Respect Educational Choice" plate
  • For the "Support Soccer" plate, we need a "Respect Sport Choice" plate
  • For the "North Carolina Green Industry Council" plate, we need a "Respect Industry Choice" plate
  • For the "Save the Sea Turtles" plate, we need a "Respect Animal-Saving Choice" plate
  • For the "Shag Dancing" plate, we need a "Respect Dance Choice" plate
  • And what about the "one side of the argument" represented by left-wing advocacy group El Pueblo, which has its own plate?

The ACLU declared, allegedly with a straight face, that "This is a free speech case – not an abortion case." But if it is about free speech and ensuring that specialty license plates are "open to the other side" of arguments, why doesn't the ACLU target some of the other specialty plates obviously presenting only "one side of the argument"?

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