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Victory for ADF and 'Choose Life' license plate, court rules Mo. Law unconstitutional

Federal judge says specialty license plate approval process is open to abuse

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — A federal court Wednesday ruled in favor of attorneys with the Alliance Defense Fund defending “Choose Life” as a slogan on specialty license plates in Missouri.  The court declared the state’s statute that outlines the approval process for specialty plates unconstitutional.  ADF attorneys represent pro-life organization Choose Life of Missouri in the lawsuit.

“Pro-life organizations shouldn’t be penalized for expressing their beliefs,” said ADF Senior Legal Counsel Joel Oster.  “Unfortunately, that’s how Missouri officials unfairly discriminated when they denied Choose Life the right to exercise their free speech rights, and today the court agreed.”

The court ordered the state to issue the “Choose Life” license plate, saying that the state statute used to reject the plate gives too much discretion to Department of Revenue committee officials who approve and reject applications.

“The statute does not provide the Joint Committee with specific standards or guidelines upon which to base their decisions and no explanation is required for a denial of one’s application.  As a result, [the statute] is unconstitutionally vague and overbroad,” wrote Senior U.S. District Judge Scott O. Wright.

ADF attorneys filed suit against Missouri Department of Revenue officials in June 2006 after two state senators, both members of a committee responsible for reviewing the applications, objected to the viewpoint of the plate proposed by Choose Life of Missouri.

At the same hearing, the applications of four other organizations--an autism foundation, a conservancy group, a cattlemen’s foundation, and a military support organization--were approved.  An appeal of the committee’s initial decision led to a second denial of Choose Life’s application.  The court’s order issued Wednesday requires the state to approve the plate.

ADF is a legal alliance defending the right to hear and speak the Truth through strategy, training, funding, and litigation.