PARKERSBURG, W.Va. — The six-month period to collect the minimum 250 applications for a proposed “In God we trust” West Virginia license plate hasn’t even started yet, and supporters have already passed the 240 mark.
“I can happily report to you that we have 240-some names,” said Harman resident Mike Snyder, who started the effort earlier this year.
More than 40 of those have come from Wood County, as Williamstown resident Ron Westfall has enthusiastically joined the cause.
“I’m glad I could help him,” said Westfall, who has spread the word about the plates at New Hope Baptist Church, which he attends, and sent information to other area churches. “To us, this is a wonderful opportunity to get that message out there.”
Before production on the plate can begin, at least 250 applicants must pay the $70 full-year fee for the plates. The Dry Fork Recreation Center, the nonprofit organization sponsoring the effort, will have six months to gather them, a period that is expected to start in the next week or so once the group’s application is approved, said Natalie Holcomb, West Virginia Division of Motor Vehicles spokeswoman.
Snyder isn’t worried about meeting that quota.
A retired teacher and U.S. Marine Corps veteran, he said he felt a “conviction” to get the phrase printed on license plates earlier this year. He sought the assistance of his state legislative representative, Delegate Denise Campbell, D-Randolph. She helped link Snyder with the recreation center, which, as a nonprofit, can request specialty plates under state law.
The state Division of Motor Vehicles asked Snyder and company to gather signatures to gauge interest in the plate.
“In two weeks, we sent Denise Campbell 1,000 signatures, 1,001 actually, from Wood County … through Tucker and Randolph, Pendleton and Kanawha,” he said.
Articles in The Elkins Inter-Mountain and Charleston Daily Mail generated more interest.
“The calls started pouring in from all over southern and central West Virginia,” Snyder said. “It’s people stating it’s time West Virginia took a stand. This government has gone too far in the wrong direction.”
While religious and perhaps political interests are contributing to the desire for the plates, the motto’s historic value is what led the DMV to give preliminary approval to the request, said Natalie Holcomb, executive assistant to the DMV commissioner.
“We have focused on the historical significance of ‘In God we trust’ as our national motto, passed by Congress, and also on our U.S. currency,” she said in an email Thursday.
State code governing specialty plates prohibits political parties or organizations whose primary purpose is to promote a specific political, social or religious belief from sponsoring special plates. The image or message to be placed on the plate “may not be obscene, offensive or objectionable as determined by the commissioner in his or her sole discretion,” the law says.
Holcomb said the same standards would be applied to any special plate request, including ones with a different religious connotation.
People wanting more information about applying for the plates can contact Jill Snyder at 304-227-4565 between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.