AUTOMOBILE LICENSE PLATES
Where did the "Choose Life" slogan come from?
Some U.S. states, mostly from the South, sell specialty automobile license plates that
carry a pro-life message. Most say "Choose Life," a phrase taken from
Deuteronomy 30:19 in the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament) of the Bible.
Michigan Christians for Life (MCFL) is one group which promotes this
slogan. They offer a free, 3" x 6" bumper-sticker
which says simply "Deuteronomy 30:19," and listed a
non-functioning URL for their web site. 1 An essay on the web
site states: "We believe if every Christian openly opposed abortion on demand
it would end. Sad to say many believers are undecided on the issue. Why is that?
Michigan Christians for Life would suggest it is due to a lack of knowledge. How
can we change that?" 2
"God made it very clear in His word where we should stand on the issue of
Life. He said, 'I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I
have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life,
that both thou and thy seed may live'." (Deut. 30:19) 1
However, Deuteronomy 30 appears to be totally unrelated to abortion. Taken out of context, the segment "choose life, that...your children may
live" might seem to be an instruction from God that women
must decide to continue all pregnancies to childbirth, and to reject abortion.
However, the full passage from Verses 15 to 19 clearly shows that the
choice is not over childbirth. It is whether to worship either Jehovah, or the gods of
the Canaanites. The incident in Deuteronomy happened during the Exodus, when
the Children of Israel were about to initiate an unprovoked attack on Canaan, and commit genocide
upon its people -- following God's instructions by slaughtering Canaanite men,
women, youths, children, infants and newborns. In effect, they were about to
choose death for the Canaanites and blessings for themselves.
It is not God who is speaking in this passage. It is Moses. However, since
MCFL appears to be composed almost entirely of conservative Christians, who believe that the Bible is inerrant and its authors
were inspired by the Holy Spirit. Thus, they might
argue that Moses' speech indirectly came from God.
Moses gives the Children of Israel two choices in this passage:
||If they live righteously and worship God alone, then they will be
greatly rewarded: "I command thee this day to love the
LORD thy God, to walk in his ways, and to keep his commandments and his
statutes and his judgments, that thou may live and multiply: and the LORD
thy God shall bless you in the land wherever you go to possess it."
(Verses 15 & 16) 3
||The other option is to reject Jehovah and worship other Gods. At the
time, the ancient Hebrews believed that there were many Gods in heaven, of
whom Jehovah was their own tribal deity: "But if your heart turn away,
so that thou will not hear, but shall be drawn away, and worship other
gods, and serve them; (Verse 17)
Moses then resorted to sorcery and laid a curse on them, if his people
were to choose the latter path. He said: "I denounce unto you this day, that you shall surely perish, and that you
shall not prolong your days upon the land, whether you pass over Jordan to
go to possess it. I call heaven and earth to record this day against you,
that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore
choose life, that both you and your children may live." (Verses 18 to 19).
Verse 20 picks up the same theme.
Even though Verse 19 discusses
religious choices facing the ancient Hebrews during their Exodus, and is unrelated to abortion, pro-life groups often
life" portion of this verse out of context.
This essay continues below.
The license plates:
As of 2002-AUG, "Choose Life" license places
were offered by five
southern U.S. states: Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Mississippi. By early 2003, this had grown to
six, including Hawaii. Legislative activity is
underway in many more states. Motorists pay an additional fee for these specialty plates which
is then routed to non-profit, pro-life groups. Any agency which fully counsels
women and helps them explore all of their options -- including abortion -- are
generally excluded from funding. Agencies which perform abortions or even refer
women on request to an abortion clinic are similarly denied funding.
Most of the Choose Life plates have a format and background color similar to that shown in the
above image. However:
|| The Hawaiian plate has the
traditional rainbow symbol and the "Aloha State" slogan which is
seen on all current state license plates. A square "Choose Life" symbol appears with a yellow background
to the left of the number.
|| The Louisiana
plate has the "Choose Life" slogan at the bottom of the plate, and an image of
a pelican -- the official state bird -- delivering a newborn over a red heart
Many pro-choice groups view the "choose life" plates to be an infringement
upon First Amendment freedom of speech and a violation of the principle of
separation of church and state. The Center for Reproductive Rights lists
||Agencies which fully discuss all of the options with pregnant women are
generally prohibited from receiving any
funds from the program.
||Where pro-choice groups have attempted to obtain authorization from
their state governments for "Pro-Choice" license plates, they have been
refused. Thus, states have promoted the pro-life position but have
discriminated against those who advocate other positions.
||In some of the states which sell these plates, the government assigns the responsibility
of deciding which non-profits will receive funding to
religious organizations, such as Catholic Charities. This is a clear
violation of the principle of separation of church
and state. 5
Copyright © 2003 & 2004 by Ontario Consultants on Religious
Originally written: 2003-MAR-1
Latest update: 2004-MAR-8
Author: B.A. Robinson