Would This License Plate Offend You?

Indiana offers one license plate phrase added for no extra fee “In God We Trust” but here’s an atheist’s experience trying to get the words “NO GODS” for his chosen license plate:

I figured if it was okay for the state of Indiana to officially endorse religion (and specifically the Christian religion, no matter what they might say about “God” being ambiguous), then it would be okay for me to personally request my belief in no gods.

Having forgot about my application, I didn’t even think about it until I received a letter from the Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles:

Dear Mr. B_______,

The personalized license plate (“PLP”) referenced above has been denied as inappropriate due to form or content.

There’s more, but it’s basically telling me I can ask for a replacement PLP or request an appeal via an administrative hearing. Obviously, you know which option I am choosing. I decided to look up the relevant text related to allowable PLPs on the BMV website.
Personalized license plates allow creativity; however, under Indiana Statue IC 9-18-15-4 (b) the BMV may refuse to issue a combination of letters or numerals, or both, that carry a connotation offensive to good taste and decency.

The BMV will deny a personalized license plate request if an objective, reasonable person would find that the customer’s proposed expression on the personalized license plate application is determined to carry a connotation offensive to good taste and decency, is misleading, or is otherwise prohibited. [emphasis added]

So either the license plate is offensive to “good taste and decency” or it’s “otherwise prohibited”—while “In God We Trust” license plates are routine.

Story comes thanks to Austin Cline and The Friendly Atheist.

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About Daniel Fincke

Dr. Daniel Fincke  has his PhD in philosophy from Fordham University and spent 11 years teaching in college classrooms. He wrote his dissertation on Ethics and the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche. On Camels With Hammers, the careful philosophy blog he writes for a popular audience, Dan argues for atheism and develops a humanistic ethical theory he calls “Empowerment Ethics”. Dan also teaches affordable, non-matriculated, video-conferencing philosophy classes on ethics, Nietzsche, historical philosophy, and philosophy for atheists that anyone around the world can sign up for. (You can learn more about Dan’s online classes here.) Dan is an APPA  (American Philosophical Practitioners Association) certified philosophical counselor who offers philosophical advice services to help people work through the philosophical aspects of their practical problems or to work out their views on philosophical issues. (You can read examples of Dan’s advice here.) Through his blogging, his online teaching, and his philosophical advice services each, Dan specializes in helping people who have recently left a religious tradition work out their constructive answers to questions of ethics, metaphysics, the meaning of life, etc. as part of their process of radical worldview change.