Thursday, January 03, 2008

Court Holds That "Choose Life" Is Not Religious Speech

Children First Foundation v. Martinez, 2007 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 94944 (ND NY, Dec. 27, 2007) is a challenge to New York state's refusal to approve special picture license plates that include the slogan "Choose Life". In this phase of the litigation, a New York federal district court refused to permit the Deputy Commissioner of the Department of Motor Vehicles to amend her answer to raise an Establishment Clause defense, finding that religious speech was not involved. The court reasoned:
It may very well be true that those who participate in the abortion debate on the pro-life side are members of religious organizations whose religious beliefs form the basis for their views. However, that does not transform the pro-life stance into one that is religious in nature, nor does it transform the phrase, "Choose Life" into religious speech. Nothing in constitutional jurisprudence supports the conclusion that political speech which is derived from one's ethical or religious beliefs or background transforms it into religious speech. Many religious persons and organizations may be opposed to capital punishment, or perhaps in favor of gun control. Those political issues are not therefore automatically transformed into religious issues simply by virtue of the religious beliefs of their supporters. The same is true for the abortion debate.