South Carolina License Plate Description September 17, 2009

South Carolina License Plate Description

South Carolina allows you to choose from many speciality license plates for your vehicle.

Each plate has a certain additional fee and the description on the DMV website explains where some of the fee money may be going.

For example, here’s part of the description for the plate for Anderson College:

Anderson College License Plates are $70.00 plus the registration fee. Forty dollars of the special plate fee will be sent to the specified school for scholarships…

As it turns out, the Secular Humanists of the Low Country have a plate of their own, too:

Here’s the description provided:

Although Secular Humanist of the Low Country is a membership based organization the “In Reason We Trust” plate is available to all SC residents. The fee for the plate is $30.00 every two years in additional to the regular registration fee. As a non-profit organization, the Secular Humanists of the Low Country do not receive any portion of the funds generated from the license plate sales.

Is it necessary to include that last sentence?

Before jumping to any conclusion about anti-atheist bias, you should know the plate for West Point includes the same line.

However, several license plates are for non-profit groups but do not include that sentence. In fact, other non-profit groups do receive a portion of the funds.

Anyone know why that is?

(Thanks to dwasifar for the link!)

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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Perhaps to stave off complaints about state money going to “religious” groups?

  • Erp

    Unlikely. Anderson College (now apparently Anderson University) is affiliated with the South Carolina Baptist Convention.

    Be interesting to know what their biology courses are like.

  • That’s the plate we have on our van. When we renew for the new car we’ll get one for it, too.

  • I understand why that line is there, to make sure people getting the plates don’t think by doing so the organization will get money from it when they don’t. No idea why some get money and some don’t though I’m guessing those that do the price is over $30 and it’s that extra that they get.

  • stephanie

    Maybe because there’s no added fee beyond the $30 for a vanity plate?

  • Kaylya

    I’m guessing for some groups (such as the college scholarship fund), the plates are a form of fundraiser (and thus cost a lot more), while for others, like the Humanist group, are simply offering them as an option.

    And that whoever was trying to explain that royally screwed up the wording 😛

    Unless there’s something about tax status that makes it so that some kinds of organizations *can’t* collect extra fees?

  • Jeffrey

    It has the feel of an FAQ, as if they were simply asked over and over “Does any of the money go to the such-and-such organization?” Whatever the rules are for distributing the funds, they’re just laying it out clearly for each case.

  • keddaw

    Is it not completely irrational to get one of these plates?

    It costs money; it doesn’t do you any good; it makes your vehicle a target for all loving Christians (and any other religion of peace).

    What is the possible upside? You get an occassional knowing smile from someone at the grocery store?

    Placing your beliefs, or lack thereof, on your vehicle is pointless at best and inflammatory at worst.

  • Richard Wade

    As much as I like the slogan, and as much as I applaud the Secular Humanists of the Low Country, I have to agree with keddaw. In South Carolina, this is like putting a bumper sticker on your car that says,


    I’ll be selling these very attractive bumper stickers for only $10 plus shipping and handling. You can get the same amount of damage to your vehicle for a lot less money than those expensive specialty license plates.

    Order yours now at

  • I’m a member of the SHL and have that plate on my car.

    No, the car has not been vandalized as a result and I’ve not been subjected to speeding tickets or other hassles from the police. Also, the line about funds not going to our group is not a result of any kind of prejudice on the part of the DOT. My understanding is that we had a choice from the start as to whether there would be an extra fee. If we elected to have one, we would have gotten those funds as donations. Many charitable groups do this and so when you see their plates you know they made a little money. However, we were not so interested in making money as in having the plates be out there visibly (see below for why) and so we decided not to do that.

    I honestly think that an official license plate is no place for religious beliefs to be advertised. However, the state of South Carolina (which offers “In God We Trust” and “I Believe” plates) obviously does not agree. I consider the plate on my car to be a protest and like to imagine that some people who are offended by it are intelligent enough to consider the implications and conclude that maybe religion should stay off of plates all together. (Bumper stickers, by the way, are just fine with me. Put whatever you want on a bumper sticker. The problem is not individual expression but government involvement.)

    But, another role that the license plate has played (which I did not expect when I first elected to have it) is that it does serve as advertising for our group. Although the religious majority in this state may not be as unreasonable as some of you expected (given your beliefs that we would be vandalized or that the quote on the DOT page was there because of our non-belief), it is still the case that non-believers are rare and generally closeted. The plates seem to have been able to catch the attention of some people who did not know we exist and were very happy to join once they did. I think finding such “lost souls” and helping them to be part of the community is a nice side-effect of my protest of religious sentiments on license plates.


  • We’ve had the plate for almost 4 years. The only problem we’ve had has been nasty looks.

    And the headlight bulbs stolen by the mechanic at the dealership when we took it in for work.

    Yes, I’ve been surprised (and relieved) by that. As for the question of why do it? Sometimes you just have to make a statement anyway you can.

    I also wear my nativity sweatshirt in December. The one with the talk bubble that says “It’s a GIRL”

  • TXatheist

    I no CPA or tax expert but in non-profit there are even more divisions that may be the reason they get some money. There’s something like 501 (c)3 which is the common one we think of but there is 501(c4) and 501(c)6 and that may be the reason.

  • Staceyjw

    I wonder if CA has a plate like this? I have to get new plates when I transfer my car from TX to CA, and I would love to have one. If you know, post. I will also try to find out.

  • Staceyjw

    Indiana refused to allow a personalized plate with “NO GODS”, see link.


    (still cant find the catalog for CA, even though I know they have hundreds of plates)

  • TXatheist

    Timing, I just talked with someone that said in Texas you have to give the DPS(DMV) $8000 to get the plate you want made up and then it can be an option for about $30 more per renewal

  • RG

    $70 – $30 = $40
    $30 – $30 = $0

  • Judith Bandsma Says:
    And the headlight bulbs stolen by the mechanic at the dealership when we took it in for work.

    I’d love to hear the rest of that story. How did you determine it was because of the plate?

  • dwasifar: the dealership was taken over by fundies shortly before this incident. The service manager wasn’t too pleased when my husband came and demanded his headlight bulbs back. He overheard the mechanic telling the manager that we were lucky that all he did was take our bulbs…that if he’d had his way, he’d have refused to work on the van at all until we could come back with a ‘decent’ license plate.

  • Friday

    I just moved to South Carolina and finished getting my new plates. I agree that state issued license plates are not an appropriate place for religious messages. [Let’s ignore for the moment the several Jesus signs I saw in the county office] It’s also worth pointing out that the In God We Trust plate is not a vanity plate. Rather, it is one of the two free choices that you have. This is a nice state, but there is a disturbingly high level of religiosity here.

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