Archive of Choose Life Updates from IL-CL President
April 2009 Update
(April 16, 2009) Yesterday, I met with Thomas Brejcha, our lead attorney on the seven year journey we have taken on our efforts to establish the adoption aid specialty license plate, CHOOSE LIFE ILLINOIS as an available plate being offered in Illinois. Based on that discussion, a review is probably in order.
This effort began in July of 2002. Since that time 20 states now have the Choose Life plates on their highways, with many more (such as Illinois) in the process of approval. We should be aware that in Illinois the approval policy is legislative (the politicians must approve) and not administrative, where the policy for approval (such as number of presold plates) is clearly spelled out.
The first trip to the state capitol to get approval was in December of 2002. This was followed by two other efforts (3/03 and 3/04) We were denied a hearing in each instance, even though over 60 specialty plates were already on the approved list. To the best of my knowledge, Choose Life became the sole plate turned down by the legislators, or for that matter, even denied a hearing in front of the members of the House or Senate. An interesting sideline to this is that the Health and Human Services committee in the Senate was assigned the bill (not the normal Transportation Committee that new plates go through), and the head of this committee who buried the bill in a sub-committee was none other than Senator Barack Obama.
We sued in June of 2004, charging the Secretary of State with viewpoint discrimination. We prevailed (ironically on 1-22-07) as Federal Judge David Coar agreed that viewpoint discrimination was indeed evident. Judge Coar then ordered the state to begin producing the Choose Life plate. The state of Illinois (flush with cash) then appealed at the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals and suceeded in getting our victory overturned. We then asked for a hearing en banc in from of all the 7th Circuit Court judges and were denied our appeal.
Today, Thomas Brejcha of Thomas More Society in Chicago, in conjunction with our Washington firm of Robbins, Russell, Englert, Orseck and Untereiner LLP, issued a writ of certiorari asking for further review by the U.S. Supreme Court. Both attorneys in Chicago and Washington have considerable experience in front of the Supreme Court. The successful arguing of Joe Scheidler's case was one of the most important examples. For a case to be heard by the U.S. Supreme Court, 4 of the 9 judges have to agree. To prevail, 5 of 9 must agree.
The two points that we will be arguing are that VIEWPOINT DISCRIMINATION occured in our denial by the Secretary of State, and that A STANDARDLESS POLICY in nature exists in Illinois for approval. Laws across the United States vary on how to achieve approval for the Choose Life plate. Under these varied state laws, in Indiana and Missouri, which border Illinois, the plate is approved, but not in Illinois. Obviously the autos from these three states criss cross each other.
There exist absolutely no standards in Illinois as to the who, why and how one gets approval of a specialty plate, which makes the approval of any plate highly subjective. Illinois has argued that due to the controversial nature of abortion, that no plates will be offered in that category. From the start opponents have tried to make this into a Pro-Life, pro-choice issue instead of an adoption effort, the true purpose. Nowhere in the bill is the word abortion even mentioned. In the words of our excellent attorneys, "the legal issues are extraordinarily right for a Supreme Court decision."
We are presently in the process of getting amici curiae (friends of the court briefs) in support of the Supreme Court hearing our case. Thomas Brejcha points out that the earliest we could get a decision as to whether they will hear our case would be the end of June, but more likely the first week in October. Please keep us in your prayers.
This is an update, and not a request for financial help to yours truly. I have not asked for money to keep this going, but have done fine through the sale of Choose Life license plate holders. However, the expenses of the attorneys are significant. If you are able to provide help in that area, it could not go to a better effort. Tom Brejcha and the Thomas More Society would be deeply grateful. (Thomas More Society, 29 South LaSalle Street, Suite 440, Chicago, Illinois 60603)
Peace, and remember the comments of Mother Theresa, "The Lord expects us to make the effort, and leave the success part up to HIM." It helps to keep us sane on the many struggles we see in todays secular world. Let's win this one!
February 2009 Update
(February 19, 2009) The news that Illinois will be offering a special commemorative license plate for President Barack Obama had a very special and unique meaning to me.
While an Illinois Senator, Obama chaired the Health and Human Services Committee when it considered the issue of our Choose Life Adoption Aid specialty license plate. He saw to it, with the blessing of now retired Senate Head Emil Jones, that the bill authorizing the plate was never even given an up or down vote by Senate members. This he accomplished by burying the bill in a sub-committee, tantamount to sending it to Siberia to never be heard from again.
Over 40,000 Illinois citizens (with more signing each week on our web site) have signed our petition asking for the plate to be issued, 47% indicating that they will purchase the plate when available. This would put the plate in the top five of all specialty plates sales in Illinois. The Choose Life plate is on the highways of 20 states, including neighbor Indiana, and has raised over $10,000,000 to help families realize their dream of completing their families through adoption.
It was frustrating to continue to hear candidate Obama claim, "I want to keep abortion safe, legal, and rare, through efforts such as adoption." Never once did he mention how he had ended any boost and support of adoption through blocking the issuing of the Choose Life plate.
Woe is me! Every time I see the Obama plate as I motor through the Land of Lincoln, I will once again wish that President Obama would have shown more of Honest Abe's character traits on this issue, starting with both honesty and integrity.
December 2008 Update
(December 20, 2008) We are confident that the effort shown by our legal team, The Thomas More Society, and its founder Thomas Brejcha, will prevail at the highest court in our land. There have been many court decisions in states across America that differ from the Illinois ruling. The cases in these states properly ruled that denying the issuance of the Choose Life Adoption Aid license plate is a denial of First Amendment rights, and a wanton act of viewpoint discrimination.
From the beginning the efforts of Choose Life have been to provide financial aid to organizations that provide adoption services to families desperate for a child to complete their family. It has never been about abortion, but all about adoption. As Thomas Brejcha has stated, the struggle for fair treatment towards Choose Life Illinois will continue to the US Supreme Court. At the same time, Choose Life Illinois will continue to send this message of hope to the many families here in Illinois that adoption is a positive decision for both mother and child. Please pray for our success in our appeal to the US Supreme Court.
November 2008 Update
(November 11, 2008) Although I was highly surprised by this decision that disallows an individual's right to purchase a specialty plate to BENEFIT ADOPTION, this fight is far from over. The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals decision that the Choose Life plate was somehow state speech and not individual speech is inconsistent with other Federal court rulings. It must be the only plate of over 60 Illinois specialty plates that somehow fits this category.
The First and Fourteenth Amendments of the U.S. Constitution, regarding free speech and equal protection under the law, clearly allow for this Adoption aid plate to be produced and offered for sale. How can the state claim it is state speech when the purchase of the plate requires a $25 extra fee? The state now charges citizens to pay for the message these citizens want on their license plate, in support of a cause they want to help, and somehow it now becomes state speech for only the Choose Life plate??
What about the other 60 plus plates, such as the specialty plate for the University of Illinois! Does this show a preference for Illinois over Northwestern? Obviously, the plates are an example of mobile free speech in action. The college license plates are not an endorsement of any particular college by the state, nor are the many union plates an endorsement by the state for unions against management. We have a specialty plate honoring those who served honorably in the World Wars. Is the Vietnam specialty plate an endorsement of this war against those wars? Obviously, not the case!
We will soon have a statement from Thomas Brejcha and our legal team at The Thomas More Society regarding future steps. Federal Judge David Coar got it right when he stated, "This is about ADOPTION, and the thousands of people wanting to purchase the plate to benefit adoption should not be denied." Judge Coar called this viewpoint discrimination, and then ordered the state to begin producing the plate.
This cause is a just cause. As long as I am breathing, you can count on our efforts to prevail until we receive equal treatment under the law, as difficult as that seems to be in Illinois. With the grace of God we will continue in this just cause until receiving approval.
James P. Finnegan
For information sake, be aware that at present, we have 19 states with approval of the Choose Life plate. There are 21 other states (including Illinois) in the process of getting approval.
August 2008 Update
(August 6, 2008) How do paratroopers, sheet metal workers, the rotary club, and nine other approved specialty license plates, differ from the Choose Life adoption aid specialty plate? Simple, the first 12 plates were all approved for display on vehicles during 2007, benefiting the cause they support, while adoption aid was directed to "the back of the bus."
All approved plates were placed properly into the Transportation Committee, while the Choose Life specialty plate was given to the Health and Human Services Committee, a committee known for its "kiss of death" policy on any social issue that is not beholden to the leftist community. Read, ACLU and Planned Parenthood. Interesting that the head of this committee was Barock Obama, now running for President.
On the campaign trail Obama has been saying "that he favors adoption as a means to reduce abortion." How strange then, to learn that in March of 2004, Obama denied both a hearing on our bill, and a simple up or down vote by the legislators. He assigned the bill to a sub-committee, burying our effort. Obama also stated "that he was not in favor of a plate benefiting adoption," while trying to make adoption aid somehow into an argument about abortion. One can only wonder what he would have done if he was not in favor of adoption.
As a result, Illinois remains among the minority on this worthwhile effort. Nineteen states have approved legislative efforts for the Choose Life plate, while another sixteen (including Illinois) are working for same. After playing by the rules and being denied our First Amendment rights toward free speech, we sued, declaring viewpoint discrimination on the part of the state. We received a favorable ruling from Federal Judge David H. Coar on January 22, 2007, ordering the state to begin producing our Choose Life plate. Since this ruling, the state has appealed Judge Coar's decision to the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals, claiming this was all about abortion, not adoption, and that somehow the plate now represented state speech, not private speech. This, while those who choose to display the license, pay a premium to express their support for adoption. We expect a favorable ruling within the next few months.
Meanwhile, the sheet metal workers, the Rotary Club, and the paratroopers are thriving while we patiently wait for our seat towards the front of the bus to open up. When it does, Illinois will be a better place for it. Too bad that Senator Obama can't get this one right. Even worse, he misleads the electorate on the issue to gain the conservative vote.
James P. Finnegan
January 2008 Update
(January 31, 2008) It has been a long 6 year struggle to get the Choose Life plate offered within the specialty plate program here in Illinois. In simple words, it is very encouraging. A victory at the Federal Court level on January 22, 2007 ordered the state of Illinois to begin producing the Choose Life plate. Federal Judge David Coar stated that Illinois' refusal to offer the plate was discriminatory, and that our effort was indeed one to benefit adoption, and not a pro-life / pro-choice controversy as the state has tried to portray it.
Sadly, but not unexpected, the already cash-strapped state then made the decision to appeal the judgement of Judge Coar. This appeal to the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals was heard in December of 2007. Recent victories in Missouri and Arizona, at this same Federal Appeals Court level, offer strong hope and legal precedence in our expectation for a favorable ruling on our case.
If you have expressed your interest in purchasing a Choose Life specialty license plate, be assured you will be contacted immediately once the state of Illinois acts on a court directive to begin producing the Choose Life specialty plate. We honestly feel, within the first five years, it will be the #1 selling specialty plate in Illinois (exceeding the environment - red bird plate), and also the #1 selling Choose Life specialty plate within USA (exceeding Florida's 40,000+).
Keep the faith, and may God bless you
(January 24, 2007) January 22nd was a special day in the hearts and minds of many. Couples who have had the heartbreak of not being able to complete their families through the beauty of adoption now have greater hope. Women and men who have given their time at adoption agencies, crisis pregnancy centers, homes for unwed mothers, and organizations specializing in placing special needs and foster children, could now get a helping hand.
Federal Judge David Coar got it right in his ruling when he stated that he assumed "that a request for a Choose Life specialty license plate was prompted by a sincere interest in promoting adoption, that the message was protected speech." No matter how others who choose to see this as a threat to the abortion business, or as an income loss to the abortionist, who missed one more "customer," it is all about adoption. The vast majority of Americans view adoption as a positive choice for mothers in a "crisis" pregnancy. Those who would not agree, certainly do not include the adoptive parents and the child being adopted.
Eighteen states across America have this beautiful program. There are another 17 states working towards the same goal. Here in Illinois our Illinois Choose Life Board made the trip to Springfield four times playing by the rules in applying for our specialty plate. We were denied a hearing from both houses of the legislature. They kept if from even getting out of the assigned committee. In the case of the Senate, Barack Obama stopped it dead. In the case of the House, it was Representative Jack Franks. Senate President Emil Jones and Speaker of the House Michael Madigan made sure the bills did not see the light of day. So much for the statements from David Druker, spokesperson for the Secretary of State , "why didn't they apply for the plates under the rules as everyone else does." Blatant and open discrimination against our First Amendment rights occurred first. Then, and only then, did we decide to play accordingly to the rules of fairness. It is called the Constitution, the supreme laws of our land.
Judge Coar got it right. It never was about abortion, only a sincere effort to offer yet another choice, at a time of a difficult pregnancy. Don't let others try to frame this argument any differently. Certainly we welcome those who do not agree, to consider offering their own plate proclaiming they are pro choice. After all, they are claiming it is all about abortion. Isn't that truly the American way?
February 2005 Update
2005) There is an old saying "any publicity, even bad, is better than
no publicity." After reading the Courier's
editorial column of 1-28-05 while at our winter home in Naples, Florida, I
would have to disagree. It was while in Florida that I first saw the ADOPTION AID
specialty license plates. Over 41,000 of them are now on the roads of the Sunshine State
in little more than four years, with $3,600,000 raised for the noble cause of helping
adoption efforts in Florida.
January 2005 Update
(January 26, 2005) The decision by the U.S. Supreme Court to deny a hearing on the appeal of the lower court ruling against the Choose Life license plate in South Carolina raised concerns about the legal implications for Choose Life specialty plates in other states. Russ Amerling provides some welcome clarification on the situation.
His insights clear up the situation in South Carolina. South Carolina (and believe it or not, Illinois) both have clauses within their state constitution that state "we favor the birth of children over the abortion." In Illinois, we are perfectly happy to have proponents of abortion on demand have their own specialty plate. I might add, in the four years since the plate started in Florida, not one single plate has been applied for from the abortion side.
5, 2005) Many of you have given me, at one time or the other, encouragement
to continue this fight for ADOPTION AID through the Illinois Choose Life specialty plate.
The lawsuit in the state of New York
uses EXACTLY THE SAME
charges we have made in our lawsuit against the present "policy" of the
Secretary of State's office regarding who will get a specialty plate issued to benefit
their cause, and who the legislators, in a strictly partisan basis, will deny. This is
June 2004 Update (June 28, 2004)
The Illinois Choose Life ADOPTION AID specialty license plate bill is
all about ADOPTION as another choice at the time of an unplanned pregnancy. There is
simply more than one choice than abortion. Financial need and "not yet ready to begin
a family" are the number one reasons given by mothers who choose abortion according
to The Allan B Guttmacher Institute, the research arm of Planned Parenthood, the largest
provider of abortions in America today. This bill, and the support it provide, gives
answer to both of these problems.
March 2004 Update (March 4, 2004)
planned, Illinois Choose Life ADOPTION specialty license plates again filed bills to make
this specialty plate available to the drivers of Illinois. I would not be truthful
if I told you I had any hopes whatsoever that the results would be different than last
year. By the same token, I have never been more convinced that we will win this
effort. We WILL be given our first amendment, free speech rights, to have our
message of adoption simply being another choice for a mother at the time of a
November 2003 Update (November 11, 2003)
We continue to
gather signatures requesting the issuance of our specialty license plate benefiting
adoption as a positive option for those mothers in a crisis pregnancy who may be
considering abortion as their only option. Adoption is one of the three choices
available to mothers at this time. Unfortunately, statistics show it to be a poor third
choice after abortion and the positive choice of raising her child. Before Roe v Wade and
Doe Bolton, the two Supreme Court decisions that "legalized" abortion on demand
in the United States, adoption was the choice of 25% of the mothers in a difficult
pregnancy. Today the figure is only 6%. There is much room for improvement.
We are now approaching 25,000 signatures affirming the issuance of a specialty plate that
benefits ADOPTION as another choice. We have additional churches holding signature
gathering events after services already scheduled. We need more people willing to
take this on. It can be done quickly over a weekend, and is simple to complete. The
parishioners always provide a huge positive response. We have packets available to mail to
you to aid in following through with this effort. Please contact us at 847-526-1152 for
more information. If necessary we are committed to staying the course until we achieve the
unheard of total of 50,000 signatures asking for Choose Life license plates. Without your
help we will not reach this goal.
Planned Parenthood, NOW, and the ACLU have been the dissenters. Their arguments in all cases have been denied in court in every state. They argue that it is Church State entanglement, and in all cases the courts decided that it was a free speech issue. They argue that it represents viewpoint discrimination, and have again been told in the courts that the state is not endorsing anything in any of the plates it issues, and they can also apply for their own plate if they wish (usually, they do not). The words Choose Life are what bothers them. This is, of course, exactly what has to happen for an adoption to occur. The mother in a difficult situation has to choose life for herself, her child, and the adopting parents who have waited so long for their family to be complete. As mentioned earlier, we have collected over 23,000 signatures from people asking for the Choose Life plate, not for a plate with wording such as 'choose adoption'. Choose Life is what "sells" the plate across America, and we have a first amendment right to use it. You can contact us at the below address. Please make the decision today to get involved in this beautiful effort. Proverbs 24:11-12 (see below) says it all.