Based on what I have read, the judge is correct.
If you look at the SC DMV policy for specialty plates (found here scdmvonline.com/DMVNew/forms/rg-504.pdf) they go into detail about who can request the plates, specifically:
**SECTION II: PURPOSE/BACKGROUND **
Special license plates are produced in two ways: non-profit organizations meeting the requirements of S.C. Code of Laws §56-3-8000 can apply directly for a plate, without prior legislative approval; all other organizations (organizations that are not non-profit organizations) must obtain specific authorizing legislation before a plate can be designed or produced.
[FONT=Arial]S.C. Code of Laws §56-3-8000 prescribes the process for application for and issuance of special motor vehicle license plates requested by applicable non-profit organizations. S.C. Code of Laws §56-3-8100 and specific sections of the Code authorizing the production of individual specialty plates prescribe the process for other organizations seeking specialty plates. [/FONT]
It seems clear that the law is meant to give organizations the right to ask for these plates. My understanding in this case is that no organization asked for the plate, a lawmaker introducted legislation to authorize it. These same lawmakers, though are not as quick to allow other faiths:
Americans United for Separation of Church and State pushed back, arguing that the lawsuit actually prevents discrimination against persons of faith. The Washington, D.C.-based organization cited previous interviews when state lawmakers told media they would not support a Wiccan, Buddhist, or Muslim tag. christianpost.com/article/20091111/judge-strikes-down-christian-license-plate/index.html
The issue is not anti-christian, no matter how you want to spin it. The issue is that while it is acceptable for organizations (for profit and non-profit) to request specialty plates, it is unacceptable for the government to do so. Suppose the legislature passed a resolution for a plate with a crescent star and “Allah Is God”?
All the judge is doing is following the establishment clause of the first amendment “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;”. I really think an appeal will fail under the circumstances, unless I missed something.
P.S. - if you look here, scdmvonline.com/DMVNew/plategallery.aspx?q=All you will see a plethora of plates from the state, including the “I believe” one. Instead of wasting time and money in court, what really needs to be done is for a non-profit organization (like a dioces maybe???) to make the petition.