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NJ ‘Choose Life’ plates on road to revival

State agrees to end six-year roadblock of pro-adoption group’s specialty pro-adoption plates

TRENTON, N.J. — “Choose Life” license plates will soon hit the streets in New Jersey now that the state has agreed to authorize The Children First Foundation’s life-affirming specialty license plate, prompting the Alliance Defense Fund to voluntarily dismiss a lawsuit it filed in 2004 on behalf of the pro-adoption organization. State officials agreed to lift their roadblock against Children First’s plate application after the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit reversed a dismissal of the ADF lawsuit in April.

“Pro-adoption organizations should be allowed to express their message as part of a program where others are freely allowed to express theirs,” said ADF Senior Legal Counsel Jeff Shafer. “The state of New Jersey has done the right thing in agreeing to honor The Children First Foundation’s free speech rights and allowing the ‘Choose Life’ plates, just as it allows many other groups’ plates that promote various causes.”

In May 2004, ADF attorneys filed suit after New Jersey officials rejected The Children First Foundation’s plate because its “Choose Life” slogan was declared to be too “controversial” and “political.” The officials later attempted to amend their censorship justification, saying the plate was rejected because it constituted “advocacy.” However, the lawsuit pointed out that the New Jersey special plate program was designed for advocacy and that the state has approved specialty plates for other organizations that advocate.

The U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey refused to dismiss the lawsuit in March 2005, but a new judge assigned to the case dismissed it in June 2008.  ADF attorneys appealed the dismissal to the 3rd Circuit, which reinstated the case.

Demetrios Stratis, one of more than 1,800 attorneys in the ADF alliance, served as local counsel in the lawsuit, The Children First Foundation v. Legreide.

ADF attorneys also paved the road to approval for “Choose Life” plates in a number of other states, including Missouri, Arizona, and Tennessee. On Oct. 8 in another ADF lawsuit, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit struck down a Vermont law that prohibited personalized license plates that make reference to “religion” or “deity.”

ADF is a legal alliance of Christian attorneys and like-minded organizations defending the right of people to freely live out their faith. Launched in 1994, ADF employs a unique combination of strategy, training, funding, and litigation to protect and preserve religious liberty, the sanctity of life, marriage, and the family.

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