One bill passed in its waning moments last week by the General Assembly has taken a step that threatens to politicize a simple, nonpartisan tool for cause-based fundraising while challenging the church-state barrier that is one of Rhode Island’s founding principles.
The legislation in question, which is heading to Gov. Lincoln D. Chafee for his signature, creates “Choose Life” charity license plates that will support CareNet Pregnancy Center of Rhode Island. The nonprofit is described on ChristianVolunteering.org as 501(c)3 faith-based organization that offers medical services and counseling in opposition to abortion.
While the services it offers are legitimate and valuable for many, the cause that is its reason for being is perhaps the most controversial one in the nation. It is clear that by issuing this license plate, the state would be putting its stamp of approval on CareNet and the position it advocates, something that clearly violates the separation of church and state, and runs contrary to the state’s laws on abortion, which is legal.
Such a license plate would also stand out among the eight existing “special design charity plates” listed on the R.I. Department of Motor Vehicles website as the only one that could be construed as extremely political.
Gov. Chafee should veto this legislation and the legislature should take that action as a chance to rethink an ill-advised action. •