The Freedom From Religion Foundation is taking issue with an “In God We Trust” license plate that soon could be available in Wisconsin.
“It sends an exclusionary message,” said Annie Laurie Gaylor, the Madison-based group’s co-president and co-founder. “First of all, if a non-believer wanted to help out veterans they are going to be precluded from buying this plate. This is obviously an attempt to push religion.”
The initial $15 cost of the plate will be donated to the state’s Veterans Trust Fund. Each additional year, a $25 donation will be paid by the license plate owner, with the money going toward the state Department of Veterans Affairs for the care of residents in the state’s veterans homes.
A bill sponsor, Rep. Dean Kaufert, R-Neenah, said he doesn’t think the state’s offering of the license plate is too close a connection or blurring any lines between church and state.
“Nobody is being forced to get one,” Kaufert said. “This is on a completely voluntary basis.”
A bill to authorize the sale of the plates, as well as a "Choose Life" license plate, will be the subject of a public hearing at noon Tuesday before the Assembly Transportation Committee.
Kaufert said the state does offer veteran-themed plates, but they are only available to current and former military members. While the “In God We Trust” plates benefit veterans groups, anyone can purchase them.
Gaylor said the Freedeom From Religion Foundation has almost 20,000 members nationwide and 24 percent of them are veterans. She said statistics from the Department of Defense show a similar percentage of military personal classify themselves as nonbelievers as well.
“You are excluding at least a quarter of veterans from being honored,” she said.
Gaylor said the will be sending an attorney to Tuesday’s hearing.
“I think this is so wrong,” Gaylor said. “It is unnecessary and divisive.”