Monday, February 19, 2007

EH.MEN2U. Would This Offend You?

Last week, friends of my wife and mine applied for a personalized license plate with the Ontario Ministry of Transportation (MTO). You know those kinds of plates, sometimes called vanity plates; the ones that most of the time, you have no idea what the owner of the car is trying to communicate?

Gary and Patti Sullivan applied for a place that read EH.MEN2U translating to "Amen to you." Pretty inoffensive, eh? They wanted to have a plate on their Honda that would be a statement to their Christian faith with a clever Canadian twist (eh??). Certainly, I know that Gary, a real estate agent here in Mississauga, would be careful not to deliberately offend any of his clients with anything too overtly religious. It seems to me that he struck a good balance here.

Well, the MTO rejected their application. In a letter to the Sullivans from the MTO's Licence Renewals Unit, supervisor of licensing Sandi Wood said the plate was rejected because the government cannot issue a plate with words or slogans that the public would consider "offensive or inappropriate." The letter stated, "The Ministry's concern, in your particular case, is that the plate would be considered by some members of the public to have a religious connotation," the letter stated. Earlier in the letter, Wood wrote that the Ministry has a difficult task determining what's considered offensive and inappropriate because, many times, it's entirely up to the individual. "However, a decision has to be made one way or the other," she stated. "Therefore, we can only hope for the understanding and cooperation of either the requester or the public at large, depending on the decision made."

This is goofy, political-correctness taken to extreme, in my opinion. I cannot imagine anyone being offended by such a message. And if so, then it seems to me that they seriously need to get a life.

While this is a relatively minor (and even a little humorous) example, this is, in my opinion, yet another example of the growing push to privatize religion in this country, especially Christianity. It is also an example of the growing tendency of bureaucrats, politicians, and civil servants to try to control facets of our life that they have no business getting involved in. These self-appointed guardians of society are so obsessed that someone, somewhere might possibly be offended by something said however benignly, that they are increasingly seeking to impose a type of Orwellian-Lite speech control on us. It seems to escape them that perhaps Ontarians aren't as sensitive as they fear. Perhaps they should try treating us like thinking adults who are used to living in a multicultural society where we get all kinds of messages from all sorts of perspectives everyday. I mean, Pete's sake, if the MTO want to rid the road of offensive vanity plates, maybe they should reject the ones that make absolutely no sense except to the owner.

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