This month, one of the primal conflicts in American politics surfaced in Rhode Island. Antiabortion legislators passed a bill allowing drivers to purchase specialty “Choose Life” license plates. Half of the $40 surcharge for the plate would go to the state and the other half to CareNet Rhode Island, which describes itself as “a faith-based nonprofit organization that exists to serve women and men facing unplanned pregnancies.”
But on July 16, Governor Lincoln Chafee vetoed the legislation, citing “strong walls of separation” between church and state. These plates don’t represent a major breach of those walls — “Choose Life” plates are available all over the country, including in Massachusetts and Connecticut, which don’t appear to be bastions of theocracy. But it is fitting that in Rhode Island, the barrier is higher.