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LN Feature: Got Pulled Over

The State of Colorado is considering a ballot initiative – a referendum – on the idea that traffic ticket revenues (the fines that are paid for things like speeding), should be paid to victims of specific offences, or donated to charities. On the feature this week, we talk with Reformed Perspective editor Jon Dykstra about the proposal.

LN: “What if speeding tickets were paid to charities?” That was a headline in a recent edition of Reformed Perspective magazine; a column written by Jon Dykstra. Jon, this kind of caught my eye, partly because it’s kind of a bit lighter than the normal stuff we do on Lighthouse News, but what an interesting concept.

JD: Well I guess the thing that caught my eye is the idea that we don’t always think about how God’s Word applies to all of life, and if it’s gonna apply to speeding tickets – if it can apply there – then we know that it’s relevant everywhere. So I thought that would be a fun take on it.

LN: So how do we apply God’s Word to speeding tickets in the context of donating this stuff to charity?

JD: Yeah. The writer who was tackling this initially – Steve Kerbel, who’s putting forward this initiative – is a Libertarian, so he wasn’t thinking of this in any particularly Christian manner. But it did strike me as running up against – or running alongside – what Paul was saying in II Cor. 8, where he’s gathering money for the church in Jerusalem, and he outlines how he’s making sure that nobody can accuse him of mismanaging this money. So it’s not just that he wasn’t mismanaging this money, he wanted it to be readily apparent (so) that nobody could even make that accusation. And so we often hear, with these photo-radar posts, how people talk about them as “cash cows”, and wondering if the government is just setting them up here and there to increase their revenues.

Well whether they are or not, the way that they’re set up does leave them open to that accusation. So his initiative kind of shuts that down. If they’re not making the money from these photo-radar spots, then no accusation can be made that way.

LN: So you talk about Mr. Kerbel’s initiative. Just by way of background, they’re actually voting on this in Colorado, right?

JD: Yes.  So he found one municipality in particular in Colorado was raising $600-thousand dollars through speeding tickets, which accounted for more than half (of) their municipal budget. It’s not usually that notable, but in Edmonton – more on our side of the border – they can make tens of millions (of dollars) from the photo-radar going to the police revenues.

LN: So this kind of goes to the issue of transparency to say “You know what? Yes, government is there to set up the regulations – speeding is one of them – but there shouldn’t be a perception that the government is doing this to fatten its own coffers.”

JD: Exactly. The law officers are kind of under attack in a whole bunch of different ways, and we want to foster respect for them; for what they’re doing. And one way to do that is to make it obvious that they’re “here to serve and protect”, and not, as one writer put it “here to fine and collect.”

LN: Is this gonna go anywhere do you think? I mean, the Colorado initiative? I remember Proposition 13 in California was the start of this property tax revolt wave. Is this sort of the new edge of that kind of activism?

JD: You know what? I don’t know. I would love it if it did, but the reason I featured it in Reformed Perspective was because I think (that) even in our circles, we don’t really think about God’s Word applies to all of life. So we think, you know, what does God have to do with math, or my entertainment choices, or speeding tickets? And we get to think His thoughts after Him, so it’s fun to see how relevant God’s Word is to every aspect of our lives.

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