'In God We Trust' License Plates, a Kentucky Hit

“In God We Trust” is proving to be a popular motto for residents in Kentucky.

Ever since the state Transportation Cabinet gave the green light to sell standard-issue plates sporting the “In God We Trust” slogan in January, over 50,000 plates have been sold, according to The Associated Press.

Within the last four months, Kentucky motorists registering passenger vehicles have opted for the standard-issue license plate bearing the national motto, “In God We Trust,” a motto established by Congress in 1956, instead of the original “Unbridled Spirit” plate.

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For a standard-issue fee of $21, people could purchase either of the two plates in the county clerk offices, with no extra cost for the “In God We Trust” plate.

Transportation Secretary Mike Hancock announced the decision late last year, during the midst of Governor Steve Beshear’s re-election campaign.

Beshear had pressed for legislation authorizing the “In God We Trust” license plate to be made available at the same cost as regular plates in 2008, and moved ahead with his plans in 2010.

Chuck Wolfe, Transportation Cabinet spokesman, stated that the agency had legal authorization to issue the new license plate, and believed that they were “acting well within [their] legal authority,” reported AP.

“The national motto belongs to everybody, and if people want it on their license plate, they shouldn’t have to pay extra for it,” he said in a statement.

Though many were worried for possible church-state issues, Wolfe told the Louisville Courier-Journal that there were no such concerns with the new plate because “In God We Trust” was the national motto and motorists had the option of choosing an alternate plate for the same price.

“The cabinet often receives comments from people out in the state expressing interest in having something like this. [We] believe there’s a sizable group of people who would like to have this choice.”

A surprise to many, and mostly to a Louisville-based group called Reclaim Our Culture Kentuckiana (ROCK) which had been trying unsuccessfully for years to sponsor a specialty plate with the national motto on it, the new standard-issue plate was introduced mid-January following the Transportation Cabinet’s re-plating schedule, which occurrs every five years.

“This comes as a shock to us since we have been working so hard to get this plate on the road,” expressed MaryAnn Gramig, ROCK’s director of policy and operations. The organization had sued the Transportation Cabinet in September of 2010 for denying their specialty license plate bearing the same motto.

The approval of the special license plate would give Kentucky motorists a choice of plates for their vehicles as well as the opportunity to donate $10 from the purchase of the special plate to provide help to exploited women and children across the Commonwealth victimized by pornography and the sex industry, ROCK expressed in a statement.

But their request was denied because the application plate did not contain the group’s logo and their mission was unclear.

Gramig announced that she was currently working with the Cabinet to redesign the plate for approval. “[I] am appreciative for their guidance in the design process ... and look forward to a ‘yes’ decision from Secretary Hancock’s office soon.”

Though ROCK’s special license plate is yet to be approved, many Kentuckians are currently enjoying their new “In God We Trust” standard-issue license plates, with no added fees.

AP recorded that at the close of business on Friday, sales of the “In God We Trust” plate totaled 50,261 – 15 percent of the new standard-issue plates purchased – while the “Unbridled Spirit” plate had registered 275,459 sales.

All of the state’s license plates are made by the inmates at the Kentucky State Reformatory in LaGrange.

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