SALT LAKE CITY -- The Utah Senate has given initial approval to the bill that would create a state license plate that contains the words "In God We Trust" upon it.

The bill was amended on the Senate floor on Wednesday to remove language that would have provided for purchasers of the plate to make an annual donation of $25 to the Freedom Festival.

Sen. Todd Weiler, R-Bountiful, the Senate sponsor of the legislation, explained that the ACLU had issues with the bill as it was written since it was the government shipping money to an organization that promoted beliefs in God. The language was removed and the bill was given early approval by Utah's senators. Weiler said the festival is supportive of the change in the bill.

"Their board met yesterday and they are behind the substitute bill," Weiler stated.

The Freedom Festival has been active in pushing the plate as they stood to gain $25 each year from registration renewals on the plate. The group has been advertising the plate on its website since its announcement in October. For the plate to be created 500 pre-orders need to be submitted to the state to cover the creation costs of the new plate. According to the festival's website 180 plates have been requested. Weiler stated that an anonymous $5,000 donation had been made to push the creation date of the plate ahead of receiving the 500 orders.

"We should be printing the plates in November of 2013," Weiler said.

Paul Warner, the executive director of the Freedom Festival, said the organization will continue to promote the plates, even though they will not receive any kickback for them. Warner said the festival was happy to be involved in the process of the creation of the plate.

The Senate will vote on the bill one more time before returning it to the House for approval of the change in the language.

-- Billy Hesterman covers the Utah State Legislature and local politics for the Daily Herald. You can follow him on Twitter at: @billyhesterman
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