By Kathleen Gilbert

CHICAGO, November 26, 2008 ( – Attorneys with the Thomas More Society have petitioned the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit to reinstate a previous district court ruling allowing the distribution of pro-life license plates, stating that otherwise they would appeal to the US Supreme Court. 

About two weeks ago, the three-Judge panel of the Appeals Court denied the “Choose Life” license plates protection under the First Amendment, stating that the “very contentious and divisive” content on license plates proposed by Choose Life Illinois (CLI) was too controversial.  The plates, designed to benefit adoption services, display the words “Choose Life” with drawn images of smiling children.

Previously, however, the Northern Illinois District Court had issued a ruling permitting the pro-adoption license plates. Now the Thomas More Society is asking the Appeals Court to reverse its recent decision, which overturned the district court decision in favor of the plates.

“We are committed to fight this battle to the finish,” said Tom Brejcha, president and chief counsel of Thomas More Society.  Brejcha condemned the Illinois court’s suppression of the same pro-life message that recently was found to be protected by the First Amendment by an Arizona appeals court – a decision the Supreme Court upheld in October. 

“Our US Constitution, especially the First Amendment’s free speech clause, must be held to mean the same thing in all parts of our country, and it makes no sense that specialty plates that say ‘Choose Life’ whose proceeds support the cause of adoption are permitted in so many other states, yet outlawed here,” said Brejcha.  “This is a classic case of what federal courts always have condemned as ‘viewpoint discrimination’ and it must be stopped.”

Brejcha warned that Supreme Court authority would be sought in the event that rehearing is not granted or enough votes are not won to overturn the panel’s decision.

Despite gathering 25,000 signatures requesting approval for the special interest license plate – far above the 850 required by state law – efforts to have the plate approved by Illinois authorities have been frustrated at every turn. 

Bills introduced in the General Assembly were diverted to a special subcommittee where they died without any hearing. Secretary of State Jesse White claimed he did not have power to approve the plate himself, and when the federal trial court ruled that he did have such authority under the wording of the license plate statute, the General Assembly passed a new bill that required legislative approval for every new specialty plate.

At a meeting with Choose Life Illinois leaders, Illinois Senate president Emil Jones said he disagreed with the pro-life message, as his position was “pro-choice.”

The Thomas More Society press release:

See related coverage:

Illinois Federal Appeals Court Rules against “Choose Life” License Plates

Illinois Victory: ‘Choose Life’ Tags Permitted after Lawsuit against Secretary of State