Saturday, March 29, 2008

We Can Pick Our Own Good Causes

Kentuckians don't need the state government to designate which charity should be the object of our generosity. Consequently, neither of the charities seeking to get the $10 from "In God We Trust" license plates should win this debate. Let the drivers decide as a matter of individual conscience.

John Cheves has been following the legislation for Pol Watchers,

The Senate Transportation Committee on Thursday approved House Bill 207 and sent it to the full Senate. The bill, sponsored by Rep. Jim Gooch, D-Providence, would let Kentucky motorists buy a specialty plate emblazoned with the words “In God We Trust.” Ten dollars from each plate would go to the state’s veterans’ trust fund.

Gooch's bill has drawn protests from a nonprofit group, Reclaim Our Culture Kentuckiana (ROCK), that applied late last year to the Transportation Cabinet for its own “In God We Trust” plates to raise money for its anti-pornography efforts. ROCK alleges that lawmakers swiped its idea and now stand to divert millions of dollars in potential revenue.

Both sides of this debate implicitly assert that God would want that $10 donated to their charity. Helping veterans and fighting pornography -- both are worthy causes, competing for scarce dollars against other worthy causes.

The license plate about to be released, however, does not read: "God Loves Veterans!" or "God Hates Pornography!" though both sentiments may well be true. The disputed tag reads "In God We Trust." That's one God, but how and when and to what extent we trust Him varies greatly from person to person. State coercion or entanglement on matters of altruism and faith undermines respect for both state and charity.

So Kentucky should follow Indiana's lead and let drivers purchase the "In God We Trust" license plates for no additional charge. Then drivers can donate $10 or however much they want to whomever they want, as the Spirit leads them.

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