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Flag used by tea party could become Alabama license plate

MONTGOMERY, Ala. — Alabama vehicles could soon be sporting license plates featuring the rattlesnake emblem and "Don't Tread on Me" warning popular with tea party groups.

A Montgomery-based organization founded by Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore, the Foundation for Moral Law, is trying to get 1,000 people to pre-order the tags at a cost of $50 each. The state Revenue Department requires 1,000 pre-orders before it will manufacture a specialty tag like the one sought by the foundation.

A similar tag in Virginia generated nearly 21,800 sales in the first 20 months. Arizona, Missouri, Oklahoma, South Carolina and Texas have similar tags.

Of the $50 fee, $8.75 will go to the state and the remaining $41.25 to the Foundation for Moral Law, which says it will use the money for daily operations, including defending the Alabama and U.S. constitutions.

Since Moore returned to the chief justice's office in January 2011, his wife, Kayla Moore, has served as the foundation's president. She said the nonprofit organization is always looking for ways to raise money and decided on the tag because it has been successful in other states and it reflects the message of the foundation.

"This is a way people can give to the foundation and make a stand for what they believe in," she said.

The proposed Alabama tag has a coiled rattlesnake on the left side, the state name across the top, and "Don't Tread on Me" across the bottom. They are on a yellow background. The tag is based on the Gadsden flag from the American Revolution. The flag was designed by Christopher Gadsden from South Carolina and was meant to represent the 13 colonies and their battle for independence from Britain. Many tea party groups now use it to represent their push for limited government.

Danny Joyner of Brewton, founder and commander of the Alabama Patriots tea party group, said he plans to pre-order one of the tags and expects the foundation to get far more than the required 1,000 orders because the Gadsden flag is so identified with the tea party.

"It's not only a rallying cry in Alabama, but nationwide," he said.

He said the snake symbolizes the attitude of tea party members who want the government to leave them alone. "As long as you leave a snake alone, the chances of you getting bit are slim and none," he said.

Carolyn Blackstock, spokeswoman for the state Revenue Department, said the tag design was approved by a legislative committee that reviews requests by groups to create specialty tags. That allowed pre-orders to begin. As of Friday, the Revenue Department had more than 120 pre-orders.

The state's large selection of specialty tags doesn't have anything close to "Don't Tread on Me" tag, but one indication of potential sales might be the "Choose Life/Support Adoption" tag. The Revenue Department reports that 6,812 of those tags were on Alabama vehicles in 2013.

In promotional material encouraging people to order the tags, Kayla Moore said getting enough sales to manufacture the tag would "send a message back to Washington and the Statehouse that we are American patriots and will not allow our freedom to be abused."

If the foundation shouldn't generate enough pre-orders, the state will send the money that has come in to the foundation, and it will decide what to do with it, the Revenue Department said.

PHILLIP RAWLS, Associated Press