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It turns out that a nonprofit identified as a hate group by the anti-hate Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) has received nearly a million dollars in proceeds from Arizona state’s “In God We Trust” vanity auto license-plate program.

trust god license plates Arizona
One of Arizona’s “In God We Trust” vanity license plates.

The program shows how religious ideology is allowed to seep into publicly funded programs largely unnoticed.

Democratic state Sen. Juan Mendez wants to do something to reverse this.

In a press release sent to the Arizona Republic, the state’s largest metro newspaper, Sen. Mendez decried state funding going to Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), an anti-LBGT organization:

“State dollars should not be funding an organization that works to strip residents of our state of their human rights and human dignity,” Sen. Mendez stated in the release. “It’s appalling that we’ve already sent over a million dollars to this extremist hate group.”

The group has supported an evangelical baker who refused to bake a wedding cake for a legally betrothed gay couple and represented a Christian charity that declined to accept a homeless transgender woman at its shelter, plus other intolerant Religious Right activities according to a Huffpost report.

The mission statement of ADF, based in Scottsdale, Arizona, is “to keep the doors open for the Gospel by advocating for religious liberty, the sanctity of life, and marriage and family.” A story by Gannett Co.’s AZCentral news site notes that SPLC’s designation ADF as a hate group is based on its views against gender alternatives and its claims that a “homosexual agenda will destroy Christianity and society.”

Sen. Mendez introduced two state Senate bills last week related to this issue. SB 1462 would require publicly accessible Arizona Department of Transportation database that does not now exist for the “In God We Trust” plates, and SB 1463 could eliminate the ADF-branded plate. Currently, $17 of the $25 fee for the plates goes to promote the national motto that inscribes it.

The database would identify all organizations that receive income from sales of the religious-themed plate.

The “In God We Trust” plates — the religious right is trying to have the phrase widely displayed in schools all over the country — were authorized by state legislation in 2008, but ADF was not identified as a beneficiary in the bills.

Tory Roberg, government affairs director for the nonprofit Secular Coalition of Arizona, said in a statement that the process of adoption for the plate program was disingenuous. He said it was passed without discussion or “public awareness of what was happening and where the money was going.”

The ADF protested blowback against the plate program, saying elected Arizona officials had “become uncritical pawns” in the SPLC’s “ugly propaganda campaigns.”

The SPLC website identifies the ADF as being “a legal advocacy and training group that hias supported the recriminalization of homosexuality in the U.S. and criminalization abroad” as well as “state-sanctioned sterilization of trans people abroad,” and it has “linked homosexuality to pedophilia.”


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Rick Snedeker

Rick Snedeker is a retired American journalist/editor who now writes in various media and pens nonfiction books. He has received nine past top South Dakota state awards for newspaper column, editorial,...