NC bishops deeply saddened at ruling about 'Choose Life' plates
RALEIGH —The state of North Carolina is appealing a federal judge's ruling that it cannot issue "Choose Life" license plates without offering a choice of plates with a different viewpoint.
Judge James Fox ruled in December that the state's attempt to offer "Choose Life" plates only is unconstitutional because it is "viewpoint discrimination in violation of the First Amendment.
The state's Jan. 4 notice included no comment beyond the appeal.
The ruling comes after the American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit on behalf of four "pro-choice automobile owners" who contended the "Choose Life" plates were state-sponsored discrimination.
The Most Reverend Peter J. Jugis, Bishop of Charlotte, and the Most Reverend Michael F. Burbidge, Bishop of Raleigh, reacted to the Dec. 7 ruling that prohibits the sale of the"Choose Life" specialty license plate in North Carolina by issuing the following statement:
"The decision by a federal judge to ban the 'Choose Life' license plate in North Carolina is a tremendous disappointment.
"We are deeply saddened that North Carolina cannot join the many other states that allow their citizens to display the Choose Life plates. We support the effort to encourage the Attorney General of our state to appeal this decision."
The North Carolina bishops have supported the Choose Life license plates since 2008, when Catholic Voice NC was established. It was the first issue that the bishops asked supporters to contact their legislators about.
Rep. Mitch Gillespie, R-McDowell, who sponsored the "Choose Life" bill in the N.C. House, said he will encourage the North Carolina Attorney General's Office to appeal the decision, the Diocese of Raleigh reported.
The license plates, approved by the General Assembly in 2011, were scheduled to be distributed starting this year by the N.C. Department of Motor Vehicles to drivers willing to pay a $25 premium. Funds raised from the plates' sales were to be distributed through the Carolina Pregnancy Care Fellowship in support of education for women considering an abortion.
The Choose Life plates were approved by the legislature after a seven-year effort on the part of supporters.
The state already issues specialty license plates for everything from the Blue Ridge Parkway to NASCAR.
— Catholic News Herald
Read the full ruling issued by Judge Fox
Read more about the ruling at The News & Observer.
Sign up to email get alerts from Catholic Voice NC, the non-profit public policy arm of the North Carolina bishops.