"Do not include “me” in your “we”

Indiana’s new “IN GOD WE TRUST” license plate seems to be popping up all over the place; a reported 250,000 have been bought by Hoosiers since January of this year.

Unlike other specialty license plates, however, this particular banner represents the only Indiana plate expressing a unique point of view for which you DO NOT pay an extra charge.

The state of Indiana provides over 75 specialty plates, each representing a variety of ideas, causes and institutions that any member of our state’s population may choose to support.

According to the BMV, specialty plates are available for an additional “group fee determined by the organization sponsoring the license plate.” And “group fees” are paid solely by vehicle owners who associate themselves with the sponsoring group.

But the “In God We Trust” plate breaks these rules, creating a new category of plates in Indiana. “This plate is an alternative to the regular license plate” but “There are no additional group fees to pay at time of purchase.”

If this new plate were a true specialty plate, available for an additional fee paid only by those who share its sentiments, I would give this subject only a passing thought of gladness that the freedoms of expression and religion were alive and well in my state.

However, that this plate is offered at no additional fee places it into a category of state sponsorship with an assumption that the sentiments are representative of every Hoosier who has a thought on the subject. It is this assumption that I, as many, find offensive, narrow-minded and arrogant in the extreme — the egotistical blindness and inconsideration of which goes against everything for which I believe America stands and for which Indiana should stand.

Stare … blink … stare … A state-sponsored plate that says “we”?

Are we to suppose the “we” in “In God ‘We’ Trust” means everyone in Indiana? Our seemingly Evangelical state leadership appears to be supporting this idea that “we” means every one of us. Or perhaps they only mean that the opinions of anyone who is not part of their “we” are simply irrelevant. I think “we” means “we” are ALL paying for the cost of a plate whose sentiments only apply to some. And those costs are far more than financial.

I no more want someone who sees that my car is from Indiana assuming that I support a state-sponsored Christian doctrine any more than I want people throughout the world thinking that because I am American I support right-winged, neo-con foreign policies, the current war-on-terrorism debacle or the misery it has brought upon my fellow citizens of this world. I am weary of feeling I must stand up, raise my hand and state, “Um … excuse me … but that’s not how I feel about things,” and I know that I am not alone.

While, admittedly, Indiana is a state perhaps far more homogeneous than our coastal counterparts, Hoosiers represent nearly every belief system throughout the world, including atheist and agnostic theologies. I should think to any reasonable person logic would then dictate that ALL Hoosiers, that is the collective “we,” DO NOT ALL “Trust In God.”

It is, of course, our right to have this wonderful variety of opinions on the subject. However, also, as a matter of course, one point of view on this subject should never be given preference over another on a state-sponsored banner designed to represent us all.

I steadfastly believe everyone has the right to have and express his or her point of view. However, I also believe we must all accept the responsibility to do so at our own expense. I am delighted to say that no other citizen of the state of Indiana or of the United States was requested or required to subsidize any portion of the cost of my having or expressing this point of view.

Hopeful curmudgeon, romantic agnostic and curious observer, Indiana-born J. Kirby Thompson has traveled and lived from Japan to Alaska and now resides in Northern Indiana, promoting peace, accountable government and environmental ethics.