Arizona has been donating proceeds from license plates bearing the slogan ‘In God We Trust’ to Alliance Defending Freedom, a listed anti-LGBT hate group.
The state offers drivers a range of speciality license plates to benefit charitable causes, including one that bears the slogan “In God We Trust.”
It costs $25 to buy the speciality plate, with a website for the Arizona Department of Transportation claiming: “$17 of the fee goes to promote the national motto ‘In God We Trust’, 1st amendment rights and the heritage of this state and nation.”
However, state senator Juan Mendez spoke out to warn people that money raised from the speciality plate is actually being sent to a listed anti-LGBT hate group, Alliance Defending Freedom, without being disclosed to people who buy the license plates.
Documents released after a public access request confirm that $1,013,438 dollars had been donated to the group, who are listed as the charity benefiting from the sale of all 59,614 ‘In God We Trust’ plates to date.
People who bought ‘In God We Trust’ license plates had no idea where the money went
In a release to The Friendly Atheist, Senator Mendez called for “common sense guidelines that would bar hate groups from earning money through Arizona license plates.”
He added: “State dollars should not be funding an organisation that works to strip residents of our state of their human rights and human dignity. It’s appalling that we’ve already sent over a million dollars to this extremist hate group.”
Mendez filed a bill on Tuesday (February 5), co-sponsored by 18 Democratic lawmakers, that would establish a database of groups benefiting from all speciality license plate sales.
Contrary to the vague description given by the Arizona Department of Transportation, much of Alliance Defending Freedom’s work is dedicated to lobbying to undermine LGBT rights protections.
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The group has filed legal challenges across the US seeking to strike down laws banning gay cure therapy, and most notably represented anti-LGBT baker Jack Phillips, to advance the argument that religious freedom gives Christian business owners the right to discriminate against gay customers.
Alliance Defending Freedom was listed as an anti-LGBT hate group by extremism watchdog the Southern Poverty Law Center after it lobbied to retain the criminalisation of homosexuality in Belize, while its have leaders linked homosexuality and paedophilia.
Arizonans ‘deserve to know’ where their money is going, say campaigners
Tory Roberg of the Secular Coalition for Arizona, told The Friendly Atheist: “The legislation establishing this license plate passed as a floor amendment with no discussion — there was no public awareness of what was happening or where the money was going,.
“People who choose the ‘In God We Trust’ plate never know that they’re sending money to ADF. It’s not on the ServiceArizona website, it’s not in the statute establishing the plate, it’s nowhere.”
Some religious leaders in the state have spoken out, saying they had no idea that the money was going to an anti-LGBT hate group.
David Felten, a pastor at Fountain Hill United Methodist Church, said: “This is not just an abstract violation of church-state separation. It’s a very real rejection of Arizona’s LGBTQ people by the very government that is supposed to impartially support and protect all of its citizens.”
Nick Fish, president of American Atheists, added: “Arizonans deserve to know exactly where their tax dollars are going. ADF’s record as an anti-LGBTQ, anti-religious equality hate group isn’t up for debate.
“Arizona taxpayers are unwittingly funding attacks on the rights of their neighbours and loved ones under the false pretence of protecting religious liberty.”
ADF’s current clients include a homeless shelter that refused to house a transgender woman.