Late to the License Plate Party, But Still Have Something To Say

Basically, here’s the deal. Seeing as June and July have been a complete BLUR, I have really not paid any attention to my family, much less the news till right about, oh, 60 seconds ago. So, when Bryan brought up the South Carolina license plate controversy, he got a big. fat. blank. stare.

After the obligatory Fill-Aimee-In-On-The-Shit-She-Has-Been-Missing Conversation, and a few Google searches, I started to get pissed. REALLY pissed. In a nutshell, South Carolina has authorized a vanity license plate with the words “I Believe” plus the image of a stained glass window and a CROSS over top of it. Clearly an indication that “I Believe” in Jesus Christ. CLEARLY a violation of the separation of church and state.

Have they lost their minds?

But before I go any further with my indignation over this ridiculous situation, whatever happened to the POINT of a license plate in the first place? WHY does every state have 15,000 variations of design? I know this sounds crazy coming from a graphic designer, but here lies the place where my design sensibilities hit the road, Jack. The PURPOSE of a license plate is for you, me and any random police officer to IDENTIFY a car at a glance. How am I supposed to do that when someone can purchase their own oh-so-special Buffy The Vampire Slayer license plates? What happened to ONE STATE, ONE PLATE? This *is* like an official testament from the holy mother of all departmental clusterfucks, the Department of Motor Vehicles, right? So, not only are you going to make it harder for me to identify the person who just sideswiped me, you are also going to make it harder for me to get through that everlasting line because Granny Smith can’t decide between the University of Florida or Florida State University – you see, she has a grandson at both schools, don’t you know! And maybe she could just get one plate from each and put them at either end of the car??? Wouldn’t that be special!? OH, SHUT UP.

One state, one plate.

And NONE of them should be religious.

Just tonight we were driving home from summer camp, for some unknown reason, Carrie Underwood’s “Jesus Take The Wheel” came on the radio. (“Unknown,” because why the hell was I listening to a station that plays Carrie Underwood in the first place?)

And Declan asked me a very simple question with a VERY complex answer: “Mama, what is this song about?”

Until this point, we had never really talked about religion, seeing as both Bryan and I are agnostic. Well, not technically, in the sense that we do believe in a higher power, we just have no idea what the hell it is. How do you explain that to a near-6 year old?

But I tried.

I actually pulled the car over, turned it off (AC and all) and asked him if he knew who Jesus was. When he did not, I explained he was a person who lived 2,000 years ago and that many people believe he was the son of God.

“Do you believe he was the son of God?”


“No. But I do think he was a really good person and had a lot of good things to say.”

And I went on to talk about the fact that there are a LOT of religions in the world. And that as he grows up, he can learn about them all, and if one really means a lot to him, he is welcome to believe whatever he wants to. And that many people find comfort in their religions, and that is what Carrie Underwood was talking about. That she was turning to Jesus to help guide her through a rough patch. Because that was what *she* believed.

“What do you believe, Mama?”


“I don’t know, sweetheart. I believe in many many things, but when it comes to religion, I just don’t think I know enough to make a decision. But I also think every person has a right to believe what they want.”

And this, my friends, is why I get so pissed off when people like those assholes in South Carolina try to shove a cross on a license plate down my throat. AND I DON’T EVEN LIVE IN SOUTH CAROLINA! You can try to tell me that our forefathers would have wanted this – but, sorry!, they *didn’t.* It was Eisenhower and his friends that put God on our money and into our Pledge. NOT the people who wrote out the laws and made this country a place where religion was free to go as religion saw fit.

And when you think about putting words as powerful as “I Believe” on something so directly linked to ALL the people of your state, you might want to think about ALL the things they believe in too.

This article has 45 comments

  1. Anonymous

    (pun intended) Amen.

  2. zipper

    No kidding. It was so much easier when there was only one plate to remember (and collect).

  3. mothergoosemouse

    I had my first conversation about religion with Tacy in the car too.

    I honestly don’t give a shit if SC wants to put out those plates and people want to put them on their cars. I’m irritated enough about the money and the Pledge as it is.

  4. wheremytruthlives

    Kudos for saying “I don’t know what I believe.” And kudos for being such an approachable mom that your kid can ask those types of questions. The world need more parents like you.

  5. joansy

    Right there with you sister.

    I missed the license plate controversy too – and I’ve pretty much been around this summer, so don’t beat yourself up too much over missing it.

    It’s totally time to go back to one plate per state. The car as vehicle for social message is all a wreck.

    Have you noticed the “GF” stickers for “God First”? My beloved husband has been approaching parents with these stickers and asking them if it means “Gay Fag” and then offering his support of the cause. He is usually met with a stunned stare. I’m hoping he doesn’t get shot.

    And about those bumper stickers that say “In case of rapture, this car will be unmanned” — those people should lose their driver’s licenses. They evidenced their intent to abandon their vehicles on the road, which is a clearly reckless act.

    Anyway, I’m fed up with all of it: preachers giving prayers before legislative sessions, add “god” to our pledge of allegiance, money to religious groups under the guise of community grants, etc.

    And you can imagine the level of pissed-offness when my kids did their kindergarten program, in a public school, and sang some shit about believing in angels from on high.

  6. Megan

    I honestly don’t care, but I always love it when you get riled up.

  7. Tootsie Farklepants

    Or? You can do what we did with our 11 year old and watch the last George Carlin HBO special and let him help explain it.

    Then we were all, “Now do you understand why mommy and daddy never took you to church?”

  8. The Casual Perfectionist

    We saw one of those SC plates on the Interstate in the Midwest when we were on vacation a couple weeks ago! We missed the story too, and thought it was an odd choice for a license plate.

    My hubby and I moved here in the late 90s and because we were in line together when we registered our cars, our license plates are one digit different…pretty cool!

    Luckily, we’ve been able to just transfer the same plates to different cars.

    Plus, we roll it old-school with the old plates from before they inverted the colors. 😉 Whenever I see other cars with the old plates, I smile. 🙂

  9. Anonymous

    Welcome to the South.

  10. Sarah, Goon Squad Sarah

    I had a friend in Florida who had ATHEIST on his license plate. After having this personalized plate for years some churchmonger saw it and decided it was offensive.

    So Florida decided to revoke it.

    The Steve fought it. He said if he couldn’t have that then none of the Jesus/God plates should be allowed either.

    You know, freedom of religion and all.

    He won.

  11. Sarah, Goon Squad Sarah

    Oh yeah, and I had a similar conversation with Ian yesterday.

    It is harder than I would have thought. It would have been so easy to just say “God created everything and He is good”.

    But I just couldn’t.

  12. Mandy

    Um wow. I’ve never heard of that one. My biggest beef with Vancouver license plates recently is that they’ve now got such a detailed graphic of mountains in the background, you can’t hope to read the license plate unless you’re two feet away.

  13. Anonymous

    whoa, and I thought it was bad that AL offers a God Bless America plate, no extra charge. And get sneaky and just hand you that one, then look at you like an axe murderer if you ask for the regular plate.

  14. J at

    Wait, you can get a Buffy the Vampire Slayer license plate? SIGN ME UP!!!

    Oh, and the reason for these plates is the same as the reason for everything else. $$$$. Blech.

  15. Aimee Greeblemonkey

    Julie… seriously… if I get one more email about how God is related to our government because it is on our money and I going to throw my computer across my office.

    OK, not really. Cause I love my computer.

    WhereMyTruthLives… thanks for the encouragement. It was really hard for me (TYPE A!!!) to say “I Don’t Know” but I also think it’s really important for Dex to know when I am unsure on something, and that it’s OK to see the gray areas.

    Joansy… You and I have talked about this before and are TOTALLY on the same page. P.S. HI! I miss you! And your hubs rocks. Gay fags indeed.

    CasualPerfectionist – I love the old school plates.

    Sarah – did you call your friend “The Steve” – ??? because my hubby calls himself “The Bryan.” It CRACKS ME UP.

    Megan – Glad to oblidge.

    Tootsie – Don’t hate me, but I wasn’t a big fan of Carlin! BUT, totally get your drift. I *AM* going to Eddie Izzard tonight, so maybe I will get some pointers there.

    Becky – You are so sweet. 🙂

    Ash – GOOD QUESTION about voting booth in churches. Didn’t we spend a bunch of money on erecting public buildings and crap?

    Mandy – Ugh, that would drive me nuts. See, and that actually was the main beef of this post (i.e., where I used most of my curse words)… cause the massive amounts of vanity plates actually really does piss me off the most. The Stained Glass Cross thing is just an extension of it.

    Anony – OK, I didn’t realize AL had a God Bless America plate. That’s pretty much just as bad in my book. Whose god? that is always my question when people talk about “In God We Trust” – try to tell me it’s for “all gods” all you want, but you and I know it’s for the Christian God. And then to make you have to ask for the other? ACK.

    P.S. Thank you all for standing behind me on this one. I am waiting for the lightning to strike me down at my desk.

  16. Autumn

    WTF??? Wow, another reason I will not be moving south… EVER.
    I think its great that you told Declan you don’t know what you believe. I wholeheartedly believe we should be honest with our kids. It was very hard for me to explain to my son what I believe. My husband and I have different views on religion. He doesn’t go to church but does believe in the bible and Jesus and all that. I do not, I am agnostic.
    To make it more complicated my son goes to a christian daycare, the only good daycare in our small community. He comes home saying things I don’t agree with, so I have conversations with him about it. I let him know that not everyone believes in the same thing and that he has a choice in what he wants to believe.
    My husband was surprised when my son said to him “You know dad, some people don’t believe in Jesus and God. Like Mommy, she doesn’t believe in it.” I think it’s a great way for my son to learn tolerance for differences, when his parents love each other yet don’t believe in the same thing.

  17. Aimee Greeblemonkey

    Jelly – ha ha. Pssst. I made up the Buffy thig. Sah-rry!

    Carrissa – I am going to have to respectfully disagree … but when something is issued from a state entity, it really should not have religion on it at ALL, but especially not singling out ONE specific religion. Or, where are the Jewish tags, the Atheist tags, the Buddhist tags, the Muslim tags, etc? This sort of thing is EXACTLY why we are *supposed to* have separation of church and state. South Carolina is saying they value Christians above all others.

  18. Aimee Greeblemonkey

    Helmey… Oh, those boys come around quite frequently already. Denver is a quick trip from Utah, eh? Thanks so much for sending them.

    IN FACT!!!! GET THIS!!!! They visited my neighbor recently, and seeing as he is a chatty Irish fellow, they sat and talked for a while, and found out that their same group actually called upon his parents. IN IRELAND!!! Kapow!

  19. Aimee Greeblemonkey

    Autumn -rock on, sister.

  20. Velma

    We’ve tried to handle the religion questions the same way, but it’s tricky, isn’t it? Religion creeps into to many areas, like the songs they sing at school or the places they have their secular activities. I’m happy to discuss any questions my kids have… I just have to remember that it’s okay if I tell them I honestly don’t know the answers.

  21. Sugar

    One State, One Plate made the out-of-state-slug-your-sister-excuse so much easier. Now it’s out-of-state… oh wait… no… now I’m just in trouble… crap.

    So, from someone who does believe in Jesus as my Higher Power I do have to admit to having serious issues with the boundaries that many “religions” are crossing. The Jesus I know would be really really pissed. I can just picture him ripping the license plates right off and going, “Don’t I get enough crap already? C’mon people! What does this have to do with Love Your Neighbor, huh?”

    I love your passion and your sensibility in raising your little Greeble Monkey!

  22. laurie

    all been said – but SO WITH YOU>

  23. SciFi Dad

    In Ontario, you can get one of a number of images, from your university’s logo to the “don’t drink and drive” logo. But what I find offensive is the square dancing image. That’s just wrong, in any country.

    Oh, and I’ll see your pledge and money, and raise you a national anthem. (Final verse opens with “God keep our land glorious and free”).

  24. Becky

    And this dear Aimee is why I like you and read this blog daily.

    Here here and I couldn’t agree with you more. on EVERYTHING!

    Thanks for being a great mom! Declan is so lucky.

  25. Ashmystir

    I totally agree that there should a seperation of church and state.

    Answer me this…

    Why do I always see a slew political campaign billboards IN FRONT of churches. Why is my voting booth INSIDE a church sunday school room? Isn’t that hypocritical of govt? Those same politicians that put the bill boards there are the FIRST to protest prayer in school.

    I also agree. One state. One plate.

    that’s my two cents!

  26. Carrisa

    I don’t really see a big deal with all of this. If someone loves their college and wants their plate to reflect that it should fall into the same category as someone who loves God and wants the same.

    Now of course I can see your point about one plate per state, that would be handy in the event of an accident or drive by. But I personally don’t think that this particular plate should be grouped any differently than any other vanity type plate.

  27. Helmey

    Holy shit you’re right! I thought it was a cross promotion with the new x-files movie…I better cancel my order!!! (It was a vanity plate that said UFOSROK)…I don’t think they were even going to give it to me as I live in Utah and not SC.

    Speaking of Utah when your son gets older I’m sure some boys visiting from Utah (look for short sleeve button down shirts with the black name tags in the pocket) will be happy to have the god talk with him…

  28. Builder Mama

    Well, considering that I live in a state that has an option for a Confederate flag license plate…I can’t really comment, can I?

    We’ve had the God/Jesus/Being conversation with Monkey Man too. I figure my family pretty much hits all points on the spectrum so it was time to explain. Not to mention in the middle of my great niece’s baptism he asked why he had never been baptized…and we got “those” looks from all the old ladies at the church. Egads.

  29. Anita

    I wish I could think of something more constructive to say except, it’s South Carolina but I can’t. Your post and the comments pretty much nailed everything I could have contributed, so I’ll just copy anonymous and say Amen (pun intended). My family is from SC and I was born there (now live in infamous FL) and I see this attitude Every. Single. Day.

    I do wish I could find some of those GF-stickered people though, so I could use joansys’ husbands’ approach. I’m sure he wouldn’t mind my borrowing it and I promise not to sue if I get shot!

    Congrats on giving your son such an opportunity to keep an open mind; they’re so rare these days.

  30. Jennifer, Playgroups Are No Place For Children

    I guess I don’t have a problem with the license plate AS LONG AS SC allowed a plate that said, “I DON’T Believe.”

    I’m sure they wouldn’t.

  31. shoes & pie

    Your answer to Declan’s questions are beautiful. Seeing as how I was little when I asked my own parents, I don’t recall if they were as eloquent. The gist was the same, though, and I have held their respect for personal beliefs in high regard my whole life, and happily adopted it as my own. Also kudos to Declan for asking thoughtful questions!

  32. shoes & pie

    Your answer to Declan’s questions are beautiful. Seeing as how I was little when I asked my own parents, I don’t recall if they were as eloquent. The gist was the same, though, and I have held their respect for personal beliefs in high regard my whole life, and happily adopted it as my own. Also kudos to Declan for asking thoughtful questions!

  33. shoes & pie

    Your answer to Declan’s questions are beautiful. Seeing as how I was little when I asked my own parents, I don’t recall if they were as eloquent. The gist was the same, though, and I have held their respect for personal beliefs in high regard my whole life, and happily adopted it as my own. Also kudos to Declan for asking thoughtful questions!

  34. shoes & pie

    Your answer to Declan’s questions are beautiful. Seeing as how I was little when I asked my own parents, I don’t recall if they were as eloquent. The gist was the same, though, and I have held their respect for personal beliefs in high regard my whole life, and happily adopted it as my own. Also kudos to Declan for asking thoughtful questions!

  35. shoes & pie

    Your answer to Declan’s questions are beautiful. Seeing as how I was little when I asked my own parents, I don’t recall if they were as eloquent. The gist was the same, though, and I have held their respect for personal beliefs in high regard my whole life, and happily adopted it as my own. Also kudos to Declan for asking thoughtful questions!

  36. Anonymous

    that shit is bat-ass crazy.

  37. carrie

    Oh, I wuv you.

    The plates are confusing, what with the Vet, Education, Military, Firefighter (which we DO NOT have) and now this.

    I agree that they should all be the same, someone just figured out another way to make a buck. Maybe they should invest in bumper stickers instead.

  38. Karen

    I’m with you on the one plate for each state thing — I think they should just take away vanity plates all together.

    Otherwise…I honestly don’t see the harm in this plate. It’s not a state mandated plate so nobody has to have it on their car if they don’t want to; now if all of SC’s plates had a cross on it…WOAH: over the line. In this case though, I think it’s similar to having a sticker on your car that says “I believe” …only this is on your plate.

  39. monstergirlee

    One Plate Per State – thats the one I favor.
    Aimee – I think you did a really good job talking with Declan, you handled it quite well.

    I ran into a difficult situation myself the other night. Sullivan dropped the bomb (and this is verbatim) “So Momma, are you and Danny going to have sex tonight?”
    It was quite an interesting conversation that we had. I hope I made him comfortable enough to talk to me about sex again someday.

    Big subjects for little boys/girls. I think its best to tell the truth. You did good.

  40. CaraBee

    I have to say that I have mixed feelings about this. And you should know that I am a committed atheist. I don’t know that I necessarily see this as different from other specialty plates. I do believe that if they are going to offer a cross, they should also offer other religions as well, star of david, etc. The constitution does not say “separation of church and state,” that is a more recent phrase, it says that government “shall make no laws respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” My understanding was that the first amendment was more about keeping government out of the church than church out of the government. A hairline distinction but critical nonetheless. So while I would probably lead the march if they made all SC plates include this, I am less offended by the optional version.

  41. Andrew

    Been said, but chiming in to totally agree.

  42. Her Bad Mother

    SRSLY? Am so glad, right this moment, that I live in Canada.

    (And? Am dreading that ‘what do you believe’ conversation. ACK.)

  43. Catherine

    Declan’s so lucky to have you, girl. You handled that like such a pro.

  44. torrie

    Wow. It’s like we share the same brain.

  45. Kelly

    WOW. I’m late to the license plate party, and I LIVE in SC! (via CA)That is just, well, typical. I think it’s horrible too, but they love their Jesus here. I’m wondering if you know about the “South Carolina is so gay” controversy? (Google it) There is ANOTHER new license plate here in the state, and the line on the bottom reads “” so, they DO want to advertise travel to SC, just in THEIR own way? OY.
    Great blog! btw, just found you! 🙂

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