Saturday, April 25, 2009

"I Believe" - In WHAT, Exactly?

Mustang Bobby at Bark Bark Woof Woof discusses the new "I Believe" license plate the Florida legislature has given a tentative go-ahead to issue. His piece covers the basic arguments about separation of church and state, and an effective dissection of the key sponsors' (including Hillsborough County's resident Inquisitress, Rhonda Storms) histories and perspectives, quite well.

I was struck by some other items.

This piece of idiocy shows just how gullible the Xtian community really is.

The Faith In Teaching website is defunct: only cached copies remain. shows the domain name as "taken" but the site is down.

Regardless of the state of the site, even the original site was remarkably short on detail. Only two pages seem to be available, each of which essentially repeats the other, and all the links posted on the Website lead off the site to other entities such as state legislators' pages and dot-gov resources. Any 501c3 entity to list only a vague mission statement and a PO box mailing address, with no more information, specific target programmes, board members or electronic contact information, simply screams "scam." And without more detail, there are no indications whatever that the effort is anything more than a means of screaming "State XX is Christian" rather than a meaningful effort to assist religious education institutions.

The cached pages and the related news stories hint that FIT is open to supporting both Christian and Jewish organisations with the funds received. However, I for one cannot imagine any self-respecting Jew that would put a Christian emblem on his/her bumper just to get $25 to his/her preferred school. There is, in turn, no plate offered with any Hebrew symbols (menorah, Star of David, etc) which would be equivalently meaningful to that faith. This, too, shouts out that the movement is deliberately misleading in its intents as well as in its presentation. Further, there is a noticeable absence of accommmodation for other faiths, both in illustrated plate samples or in the language used on the saved copies of the Website, which makes the interfaith claims spouted by FIT sound even more false.

There are already plenty of incentives for private donations like this. Income tax incentives alone yield more benefit for philanthropy. Likewise, there are plenty of other meaningful symbols that can already be applied without requiring state involvement as this particular effort obviously intends. Insisting that such a step is needed to save Florida's religious schools is worthy of the loudest ridicule: if the schools and teaching programmes are failing, it isn't because there hasn't been a license plate to bring them cash - it's because their primary sources of funding (philanthropy and donations) have dried up. Anyone who wanted to give to a faith-based school would already be doing so without the plate, and those too poor to do so before the plate are unlikely to be able to afford the surcharge for the plate now.

And last there is that sticky Separation of Church and State issue to consider.

One doesn't need to be anything other than Christian to see this transparent attempt at proselytizing for proselytizing's sake for anything but what it is. And one doesn't need a license plate to declare one's faith.

I'm far less incensed that Florida would debate such a clearly sectarian programme than that the state - any state - would be so willing to be duped by such an obviously dishonest effort.

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