Posted on December 9, 2011 at 5:47 AM
Friday, Dec 9 at 11:38 AM
AUSTIN -- A new specialty license plate design is stirring debate. The Texas Department of Motor Vehicles Board approved the design Thursday along with four others.
The Calvary Hill plate won approval in a 4-3 vote. Two board members were absent. Now the design will be available to Texas drivers, but some say it's inappropriate. They're worried about the religious undertones of the plate. It includes three crosses to the side and the words "One State Under God" along the bottom.
Opponents argue it's disrespectful of religious freedoms.
Supporters, however, say the plate abides by the state standards and reflects the First Amendment's right to free speech.
It's a similar argument that went before the board in November when the Sons of Confederate Veterans, Texas Division presented its specialty plate design. Their design included a Confederate flag
. The board rejected the application. Now the SCV, Texas Division says it has filed a lawsuit against the board.
“We believe that the board has discriminated against our group based on the view point of our group rather than allowing for our group to have its First Amendment right,” said Attorney Amy Sabian, representing the group.
The DMV is not yet responding to the suit. However, the board is considering just how far these designs should go. According to Kim Perkes with Texas DMV, staff is looking at new design standards for the plates. She also says two board members, Cheryl Johnson and Raymond Palacios Jr., expressed concern on Thursday about how many are now coming in for approval. Setting a cap or limitation on the amount of specialty plates, though, would need additional approval.
Texas is the first state in the country to have a specialty license plate vendor program. Therefore the procedures Perkes says are always being refined. She says there are about 300 specialty plates available to Texas drivers. More than 73,000 have been sold since 2009.
Proceeds from specialty plates go in part to the state and in part to the organizations that designed them. So far, the plates have raised more than $7.4 million for Texas.
Proceeds from the Calvary Hill plate will benefit a non-profit youth organization in East Texas called the Glory Gang.