Choose Life Update from IL-CL President
March 2015 Update
(March 2, 2015) CHOOSE LIFE LICENSE PLATE BILL: THE HYPOCRISY FOUND IN SPRINGFIELD
Just last month I wrote that the political situation in Illinois remains unfavorable for positive movement on the Choose Life specialty license plate, even though the Illinois Legislature continues to establish other new specialty license plates in every legislative session. It did not take very long for this hypocrisy to be shown again.
Here is my response to yet another great effort by State Representative Tom Morrison to introduce the Choose Life Speciality License Plate into the state of Illinois. The Choose Life Plate is now on the road in 29 states within America, with another 16 states in the process of joining this special effort. Over $21,000,000 has been raised for this life affirming cause. Tom has been a true warrior in this effort, as has been the case with so many who struggle for righteous in a dark and often deadly place.
The Springfield results that Tom again received remind me of the old saying "the beat goes on." Once again Tom's bill (HB 423) was given the sub-committee treatment, which every one knows buries the bill to assure that the effort does not even get a chance to be discussed by the committee itself, let alone receive an up or down vote by the politicians who are sent to serve us.
The previous justifcation (the "Jack Franks" argument) was that there are too many specialty plates on the roads in Illinois. At the same time Franks, and now the new committee chairman, voted for yet another new specialty plate.
On the same day HB 423 was killed, a bill establishing a new Operation Desert Storm license plate was approved by the committee. The committee chairman told Tom Morrison, "It’s different when you’re talking about veterans."
The beat goes on because the same leaders who let this happen in the past, Michael Madigan and Jesse White, are once again telling their minions how to vote on such a beautiful free speech effort to benefit families attempting to adopt newborn children.
Even with this roadblock, there is still hope that this blatant denial of free speech can be rectified with a case currently before the U.S. Supreme Court. On February 18th, the Chicago-based Thomas More Society filed an amicus brief urging the Supreme Court to rule that specialty license plates, including “Choose Life” license plates, constitute private speech in a designated public forum, and are thus protected by the First Amendment as free speech. This case gives us the best chance yet to prevail in this 13 year old effort.
Over the past 13 years I have been privileged to lead this effort in Illinois. I assure all that we will NEVER quit the effort to present adoption in the state of Illinois as both a fair, needed and blessed effort. It will succeed, as goodness in the eyes of the Lord always wins as long as the effort and faith in HIM continues. Too much good will result from this effort's success to ever allow us to stop.
My hope is that it happens in my lifetime, but happen it must. When it does, what a beautiful effort it will be as we introduce availability of the Choose Life plate to the public. I can guarantee we will within five years have over 50,000 of the plates traveling the highways of the Land of Lincoln. I desperately would like to be part of the marketing of the plate to all Illinois drivers. That's when the joy and fun starts.
God bless all of you who have kept the faith. Feel free to contact me for any further questions.
February 2015 Update
(February 24, 2015) AN UPDATE ON ILLINOIS CHOOSE LIFE SPECIALTY LICENSE PLATES
The political situation in Illinois remains unfavorable for positive movement on establishing Choose Life specialty license plates, even though the Illinois Legislature continues to establish other new specialty license plates in every legislative session.
However, there is hope that this blatant denial of free speech can be rectified with a case currently before the U.S. Supreme Court. On February 18th, the Chicago-based Thomas More Society filed an amicus brief urging the Supreme Court to rule that specialty license plates, including “Choose Life” license plates, constitute private speech in a designated public forum, and are thus protected by the First Amendment as free speech.
The brief was filed on behalf of Choose Life America, Choose Life Wisconsin, and Illinois Choose Life. The Society’s brief encourages the U.S. Supreme Court to rule in the case brought by the Sons of Confederate Veterans in favor of free speech for all specialty plates, without any viewpoint bias.
Choose Life license plates are currently available in 29 states and the District of Columbia, and the revenue they generate benefits adoption agencies and pregnancy care centers that serve mothers in need. Through October 2014, Choose Life specialty plates had raised over $21 million dollars for these organizations.
We commend the efforts of the Thomas More Society on behalf of this cause in support of life and adoption. We continue our efforts to finally enjoy our private freedom of speech by making Choose Life plates available in Illinois.
This court case is one of the best hopes we have had since the defeat we suffered when the state's successful appeal blocked our apparent 2007 victory in Federal Court. The appellate court overturned the January 22, 2007 ruling by Justice David Coar in our favor, where he ordered the state to begin producing Choose Life plates.
We still have the Choose Life license plate holders available for your autos. It is our only fund raiser, other than donations, to keep the effort going. The plate holder is $25, which includes shipping and handling. Please consider purchasing this plate holder for your autos. God Bless, and please pray for the success of our continued effort here in Illinois.
December 2013 Update
(December 17, 2013) AN UPDATE ON ILLINOIS CHOOSE LIFE SPECIALTY LICENSE PLATES
Today we have 29 states, plus Washington D.C., where citizens are able to obtain the Choose Life specialty license plate. The purchase of the plate provides a means to express the wisdom of choosing adoption as a far better choice than abortion for solving a “crisis pregnancy.” Illinois should be a member of this esteemed group. Sadly, it is not, and a “Choose Life” bill has not even been allowed a committee hearing that could lead to an up or down vote by the general assembly in Springfield. In addition to the 29 states already offering the plate, it is available for "pre-sale" in Nebraska, Utah, and Maine.
The impressive figure of $19,100,000 has been raised nationwide to help support opportunities to adopt children, so those who wish to complete their families with a son or daughter to love can do so. Illinois still remains a state controlled by political forces within the House, Senate and the Governor's office, who by their actions have shown they are no friends of Life and Family. Rather, they are ardent supporters of abortion on demand, and somehow they connect support of adoption as contrary to their political position.
We have no intention of "folding our tents" and going home on this needed effort. Personally, I consider it to be a privilege to have headed up this effort since July 2002. In 2005 we sued the State of Illinois, and Jesse White, charging viewpoint discrimination in denying the Choose LIfe plate under our constitutional right to freedom of speech. We prevailed at the Federal Court level, and the state was ordered to begin offering the plate. Sadly, the state appealed, and we lost at the appeals court level.
There are several options we have to move forward so supporters of adoption will not be denied this opportunity in the Land of Lincoln. We hope that the November elections, starting with a change in Governor, will give us more legislators in Springfield to stand up for Adoption Aid.
We still have the Choose Life license plate holders available for your autos. It is our only fund raiser, other than donations, to keep the effort going. The plate holder is $25, which includes shipping and handling. Please consider purchasing this plate holder for your autos, and also contact your church to seek arrangements for offering the Choose Life plate holders as a step in support of Life and Adoption. I am available to assist your church with advice to help maximize the results. The Choose Life plate holders have been extremely well received where offered. God Bless, Merry Christmas, and please pray for the success of our continued effort here in Illinois.
July 2012 Update
(July 17, 2012) Current requirements for introduction of a specialty license plate in Illinois
This week I spoke to Carla who is involved in the specialty plate program in Illinois. We spoke about the legislative requirements for introducing a specialty plate.
First, a bill must be introduced for approval of the specialty plate.
Sponsors must be obtained who will introduce the bill in both the House and Senate.
The bill is then assigned to a committee in both the House and Senate. The speaker of the House and the president of the Senate make the choice as to what committee.
The head of these committees then decide if the bill will be discussed. In our case the bills have never been released for a simple "up or down" vote from either the House or Senate. In the House, democratic representative Jack Franks has chaired the House committee and buried the bill in a subcommittee, never to see "the light of day." This result reflects the ugly face of politics all over the adoption aid effort.
Once approved on a simple majority vote by both the Senate and House, it then goes to the governor to sign. He can veto the bill, but according to Carla, this seldom occurs.
The plate is then approved, and we are required within two years to obtain 1500 residents who will purchase the plate, and immediately pay the $20 charitable amount shown in the bill for the cause supported.
As long as I am privileged to continue this effort, we will not give up. I assure you of that.
Jim Finnegan, president Illinois Choose Life
P.S. I would like to let you know that once again we have the beautiful replica of the plate shown on our choose life license plate holder. You can order on our website (http://www.ilchoose-life.org). It is our sole fund raiser and without a doubt looks great on your present auto. A tax deductible donation of $25 covers both the plate holder and mailing. God bless.
July 2011 Update
(July 17, 2011) At the present time we still encourage the gathering of signatures on our petitions asking for a speciality license plate whose purchase will benefit adoption as a better choice than abortion.
As mentioned in my earlier (March 2011) update, House bill 2988 was entered to offer the Choose Life plate. Sadly, the bill was again assigned to a House committee chaired by Democrat Jack Franks. The first time around, Franks also got the bill for the House, and Obama was given the Senate bill. Both buried the bill in sub committees. This to be certain they were not even discussed by the entire committee, let along released for an up or down vote by the entire House or Senate.
Nothing seems to change from the Democratic side in Springfield, especially when led by Michael Madigan, Speaker of the House, John Cullerton, President of the Senate, Pat Quinn, Governor, and Lisa Madigan, Attorney General. All beholden to Planned Parenthood, NOW, NARAL, and the ACLU for their votes and funding for election. We are now on hold until the 2012 election when we will hope for change in the legislators to permit a strong voice for the Choose Life plate to join the 100+ specialty plates now in our state.
I assure you that our group will not quit until this happens. When it does, you will see the Choose Life plate within five years become the number one, or at the "worst," #2 selling specialty plate on the roads of Illinois. That would make sense to me, as The Land of Lincoln should demand no less than providing adoption aid for the citizens of our state demanding it.
March 2011 Update
(March 2, 2011) Rep. Tom Morrison files the Choose Life bill
Just received a call from Representative Tom Morrison, who of course introduced HB 2988 to establish our adoption aid Choose Life speciality plate. No surprise, but more than disappointing, was the committee assigned to our bill. It went to the State Government Administration Committee headed up by, you guessed it, Rep. Jack Franks.
The entire committee is as follows: Chairperson Jack Franks D, Vice-Chairperson Lisa Dugan D, Republican Spokesperson Randy Ramey R; Members: Edward Acevedo D, Jason Barickman R, William Burns D, Monique Davis D, Kenneth Dunkin D, David Harris R, Sidney Mathias R, Emily McAsey D, Donald Moffitt R, Michelle Mussman D, Robert Pritchard R, Carol Sente D, and Jim Watson R.
The Committee is loaded against us again, no question about it. We do have in Tom Morrison someone who will do all he can, and then some, to get a fair shake. We did not have that last time. We can't forget the amazing response from the signature gathering at churches. These people are amazing in their devotion to get the Choose Life plate on the roads of Illinois.
Tom has spoken to the Republican Spokesperson Ramey, who asked Tom what bills were important to him. Tom of course told Ramey that HB 2988 is one of the bills that is special to him. He got a favorable response from Ramey telling him he will do all he can to push it further for a hearing within the committee. Ramey asked if we had petitions for the plate and if so to bring them to the committee. Our latest count took us over 6000 (specialty plates now require 1500). Tom still has at his home a considerable number of the petitions we had from our past effort and will bring them to Springfield for the committee effort as Spokesman Ramey strongly suggested.
Interesting that yesterday Tom mentioned two new plates were approved, Air Force and Coast Guard. I was not sure whether we ever got a hearing from any committee (House or Senate) the first time. Ramey said he would do all he could to get a hearing on HB 2988. Hopefully we will begin, especially from Ralph Riviera, to get a feel for where we stand on this one. Our approach is to see how many on the committee, and Representatives as a whole, would vote on the Choose Life effort. We shall wait and see.
Anything worthwhile, (and this one is so in spades for financial aid to the CPC's) is worthwhile working for. One would think that now with Alaska and Texas close to signing on (would make 28 states) that even Illinois would allow our Choose Life plate. That was one of the questions that Republican Spokesperson Ramey asked Tom, and according to Tom, felt that was very important to a possible approval in the future.
August 2010 Update
(August 16, 2010) $7.3 million to support adoption.
That is how much money Florida residents have voluntarily contributed to adoption service providers over the last decade through the purchase of the Choose Life specialty license plate the State of Florida offers to its residents.
Following Floridas lead, 24 additional states have adopted the Choose Life license plate as a purchase option for their residents. Legislative initiatives to create Choose Life license plates are moving in another 21 states on top of this.
However, as seemingly is the case on so many issues, Illinois is the bad example.
I founded the Illinois Choose Life organization in July 2002 to bring these plates to Illinois in support of the amazing adoption agencies, crisis pregnancy centers, and homes for unwed mothers that work tirelessly to find and to foster loving, nurturing homes for children.
Eight years later, I am still surprised that such an obviously redeeming mission could be so beset by politics.
We tried for three years, in legislative session after legislative session, to get a simple up or down vote on the Choose Life plate and, despite ever-increasing numbers of sponsors, each year our bill was bottled up in committee by the powers-that-be in Springfield.
With more than 50 specialty plates in circulation in Illinois, it was clear that certain legislators simply didnt like our message which is an unjust abridgment of the First Amendment rights of Illinois residents. We took our case to federal court and prevailed at the district court level only to have that verdict overturned on appeal after the Secretary of State and Attorney General convinced the General Assembly to change the law with their appeal pending. Of course, that change in the law did nothing but provide thinly veiled cover to block the Choose Life plate and continue the states practice of viewpoint discrimination.
As Andrew Carnegie once said, Anything in life worth having is worth working for. And so our work continues in earnest.
According to our estimates, within five years of availability, the Choose Life license plate would generate more than $1 million annually for adoption service providers in Illinois. This Choose Life plate is worth having and we are going to keep working for it.
There is reason for optimism, particularly if we get the leadership changes in Springfield we need in November.
As such, we are re-launching our Choose Life license plate petition effort. And Im asking for your help to reach our goal of 25,000 signatures by January 1.
Please obtain the petition form here (PDF format). Feel free to make copies. Please note that it is critical to obtain, if possible, both (1) the signers email address so we can communicate with them, send e-updates; and (2) the signers indication that they would purchase the Choose Life plate if it was made available (check the box).
I am very thankful that the Illinois Family Institute has signed on to help us with this endeavor. The dedication of IFIs staff and volunteers is truly a blessing for our initiative.
Please do what you can to gather signatures and spread the word within your circles of influencechurch, civic/philanthropic organizations, local crisis pregnancy centers (the beneficiaries of this effort), family, friends and neighbors.
In addition to the 25,000 signatures, we want to get signatures from all 102 counties in Illinois to demonstrate the broad support and sizeable demand that exists for Choose Life license plates.
Christ has asked us to "Go out to all nations and preach the Gospel." Certainly the Gospel of Life would be at the top of His list, a noble and satisfying effort.
Thank you in advance for your consideration and support of bringing the Choose Life specialty license plate to Illinois in service of mission to see that every child in Illinois grows up in a loving home.
May God bless you and may He bless our effort.
P.S. Our goal for the Choose Life plate petition effort is 25,000 signatures by January 1. Again, please see the petition form here (PDF format). Feel free to make copies. Please note that it is critical to obtain, if possible, both (1) the signers email address so we can communicate with them, send e-updates; and (2) the signers indication that they would purchase the Choose Life plate if it was made available (check the box).
P.P.S. There will be costs involved in this effort and if you are able, please consider making a tax deductible financial contribution to Illinois Choose Life, 460 East Lake Shore Dr., Barrington, IL 60010.
October 2009 Update
(Oct 6, 2009) Well, the discouraging news came this week. The U.S. Supreme Court decided not to hear our case appealing the State of Illinois refusal to grant us the Adoption Aid Speciality License Plate, Choose Life. To review, the seven year three month odyssey in this effort, goes as follows:
In July 2002, a committee was formed to apply for a Choose Life (CL) specialty license plate, to raise funds to benefit adoption assistance as yet another choice for a woman in what has been described as a crisis pregnancy. In December 2002, March 2003, and March 2004, we traveled to the state capitol to present our bill to authorize the CL plate. For the first time a proposed specialty plate was given to the Health and Human Services Committee (Chairman Barack Obama), not the usual Transportation Committee. It became the first specialty plate denied by the Secretary of State in Illinois. As another first, this was the only time a specialty plate was not given an up or down vote by the legislators, but simply buried in subcommittees.
We sued the state on 6-4-06, charging that denial of the CL plate constituted viewpoint discrimination and a standardless policy to determine who gets a specialty plate, in violation of the First Amendment. On 1-22-07, Judge David Coar, of the federal district court here in Chicago, issued a favorable decision, ruling that the states actions were indeed constitutionally offensive viewpoint discrimination. But the state appealed and in the meantime, the General Assembly passed a new law, confirming that General Assembly approval was required for every new specialty plate, and after Governor Blagojevich signed the law, the three judge panel of the U.S. Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against us, reversing our earlier win. We then asked all the Seventh Circuit Judges to reconsider the panels decision (en banc review by the entire 7th circuit) but this was denied.
On April 16th 2008, our attorneys petitioned in Washington, D.C. for a writ of certiorari, asking that the case be heard again by the nine Justices of the U.S. Supreme Court. Their decision to not hear our case was released on October 5th. The Supreme Court takes only a few cases every year (roughly only one out of every hundred twenty petitions is granted in recent years!), keeping its eye out for cases such as ours where a variety of different, arguably conflicting decisions have been handed down by lower courts, so that the Justices can function as umpires straightening out the differences and conflicts as to what the law means. But they decided to stay silent on the Choose Life front.
We had felt our chances were good to get a decision from them due to the fact that across the United States there has been a real potpourri of varying legal decisions relating to CL specialty plates, with different outcomes depending on locale and legislation and variable views of lower federal court Judges about many strands of First Amendment legal doctrine. For example, are specialty plates government speech, endorsed by the state, or private speech in a public forum as to which the state is merely a content-neutral gatekeeper? Are specialty plates a public forum, a limited public forum, or a nonpublic forum? Was Illinois stated justification for suppressing the CL plate that it banned all expression relating to reproductive rights, and not just the CL position a transparent cover for viewpoint discrimination, or content-based discrimination lacking a compelling justification, or rather a merely reasonable basis for limiting access to a nonpublic forum?
This brings us to where we are at this time. In simplest terms, we do not plan on quitting. We hope with some legislative changes in the state capitol, we could again file our bill, in particular that now the state has changed its legislation to require approval from the legislators in Springfield for any new plate. Before the Secretary of State (Jesse White) had this decision. It would be nice to finally get an up or down vote from our politicians on the Choose Life Adoption aid plate.
There is also a slight chance of our filing a "petition for rehearing" in the Supreme Court, asking the Justices to change their minds. We do not know how many votes we received to hear our case in the first place (four were needed to get the case heard, while five votes would be needed to win). We may have gotten three and hope for a fourth if a rehearing were to be granted. We will consider this option by asking respected First Amendment scholars if this long shot is worth the effort and cost. The main message I leave you with today is that we are not packing our bags and going home. With the Good Lord's help and direction, I still feel we can prevail.
Stay in touch. Please consider contacting our lead attorney Thomas Brejcha at the Thomas More Society, 29 South LaSalle Street, Suite 440 Chicago, Illinois 60603. 312-782-1680. Thank Tom for his undying faith and effort. If the Spirit moves you, please also consider sending The Thomas More Society a donation in thanks for their 7 year pro bono effort on behalf of Life and Adoption here in Illinois. Feel free to contact me at any time for further questions or how you too can help.
Peace and God's blessings,