Rhode Island Governor Lincoln Chafee (shown in photo) has vetoed a bill that would have authorized the state to offer a “Choose Life” license plate to raise funds for a faith-based crisis pregnancy center in the state. The governor cited the First Amendment's supposed separation of church and state mandate that he insisted prohibited the state government from involving itself in such a campaign. The measure, which was approved by the Democrat-controlled state legislature earlier this month, would have allowed half of the $40 cost of the vehicle plates to go to Providence-based CareNet, a Christian crisis pregnancy center. Supporters said the campaign would have helped to reduce abortions in the state.
Pro-abortion activists had asked Chafee to veto the bill for the plates, which 29 other states currently offer. While the state offers other messages on its license plates, Chafee nonetheless advised lawmakers in his veto that the sole function of a license plate is “to register and identify a motor vehicle.” He said it was his conviction that “state participation in the transmission of funds to this organization would violate the separation of church and state, one of the fundamental principles upon which our state was founded.” He claimed that the “framers of the United States and Rhode Island Constitutions constructed strong walls of separation between church and state. This bill compels the state to collect and distribute funds to an organization that advocates a particular religious and political viewpoint.”
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Photo of Gov. Lincoln Chafee: AP Images