'One State Under God' License Plates Go on Sale in Texas

Starting next week, drivers in the state of Texas will be able to order a specialty license plate featuring a picture of Calvary Hill and the words "one state under God" to the delight of many residents.

The official license plate, approved by the governing board at the state's Department of Vehicles last December, was the subject of much controversy in 2011 due to its religious design, which some felt was disrespectful and discriminatory.

But regardless of the dissenting opinions, the Texas board decided by a 4-3 vote to allow the religious plate designed by Glory Gang, a nonprofit youth organization, to be accepted into their program.

"The message of the Calvary Hill plate is the message that we give to the children we work with: there is hope," Matt Rocco, a Glory Gang board member, said.

The organization works with at-risk children ages 3-12 in Nacogdoches County, imparting hope by meeting both tangible and spiritual needs.

They provide food, clothing, back to school backpacks, shoes, Christmas gifts and stockings, summer camp scholarships, and biblical training through weekly services and Vacation Bible School.

Glory Gang works to partner with all people to reach the underprivileged children in the county, which Rocco describes to be more than 75 percent of all students.

With the new Calvary Hill plates, many more could assist the ministry in bringing new life to the children from low-income communities since a portion of the proceeds will go to their ministry.

"We believe the new plate will appeal to a lot of Texans who believe as we do – who will like knowing that sharing a Christian message from their cars will also help kids in need," Rocco added.

While the ministry sees the new plate as an opportunity to help children and a "simple way to drive your passion on every highway, byway, city street or county road in Texas," others claim it is government endorsement of religion.

The Texas Freedom Network has been one of the most vocal groups opposed to the plates.

Kathy Miller, the TFN President, previously said, "It's become pretty clear that our governor (Rick Perry) is dismissive of religious beliefs other than his own, and now his governmental appointees have voted to send a message that Texas is unwelcoming to the religious faiths of some of its citizens."

"The truth is that giving government the power to play favorites with faith ultimately diminishes religious freedom for everyone."

But the Liberty Institute asserted that anyone who opposed the plate did not understand the law or have respect for the First Amendment, which protects private speech.

"The purchase and design of a specialty license plate is after all a private decision and a private endeavor that merely passes through the DMV as one of many private or public arrangements that Texas participates in with the public."

The organization also noted that the phrase "One State Under God" is widely supported in Texas and that "extreme liberal activist groups" are out of touch with mainstream Texas and American values in general.

Calls to the Glory Gang by The Christian Post were not answered on Friday.

The new Calvary Hill license plates will be available to order at www.myplates.com beginning March 19. Though the plates start at $55 a year, the cost can increase if drivers seek to customize their plates.