Case to decide if NJ license plates can "Choose Life"

    A federal appeals court in Philadelphia is deciding whether New Jersey officials are violating free speech rights by refusing to offer specialty license plates that include the words “Choose Life.” New Jersey residents already have their pick of specialty license plates from organizations including Rotary International, and the Catholic men’s fraternal benefit society Knights of Columbus.

    A federal appeals court in Philadelphia is deciding whether New Jersey officials are violating free speech rights by refusing to offer specialty license plates that include the words “Choose Life.” New Jersey residents already have their pick of specialty license plates from organizations including Rotary International, and the Catholic men’s fraternal benefit society Knights of Columbus.

    Listen:
    [audio: 090415lfplate.mp3]

    A non-profit organization called the “Children First Foundation,” says a plate featuring two smiling children and the words “Choose Life” should be added to New Jersey’s list of specialty license plates. The group encourages adoption as a positive choice for unwanted pregnancies,

    Villanova University law professor Catherine Lanctot says the issue is complicated.

    Lanctot: The First Amendment issue is whether the speech that’s on the license plate is private speech – the private person purchases the license plate and that’s that person’s private expression. Or whether or not it could be considered to be government speech because the government in fact generates the license plate and exercises some degree of control over the license plates, or whether it’s some kind of mixture of the two.

    Lanctot says courts across the country have ruled on the license plate issue, but there’s no overarching legal consensus.

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