Ruth Johnson, Michigan’s utterly ridiculous Secretary of State (seriously, she would need a promotion to get to be an idiot), has decided that a man can’t have a license plate that says WAR SUX because it might have a negative impact on children who see it. I really wish I was making this up.
The state of Michigan is defending its rejection of an anti-war license plate, saying children riding in cars need to be protected from seeing “WAR SUX.”
Attorneys for the secretary of state’s office asked a judge this month to dismiss a lawsuit that accuses officials of violating the First Amendment by broadly controlling speech. David DeVarti, a Washtenaw County man, wanted the six-letter plate but was turned down.
In a recent filing in Grand Rapids federal court, the state, among other reasons, said the plate would be offensive to children who amuse themselves by reading plates on passing vehicles.
“And because vehicles often travel in residential neighborhoods, youth may be exposed to license plates from their yards or driveways,” said Ann Sherman, an assistant attorney general.
“Courts have often upheld legislation aimed at protecting the physical and emotional well-being of youth, even where First Amendment rights are concerned.”
You can read the motion to dismiss here. Some of the language will make you laugh out loud. They actually claim that the word “sux” is harmful to children because it’s profane and they make an argument so broad that, if followed, would mean that the government could censor anyone who uses the word in any way:
Second, many young children of reading age ride in vehicles and are unwillingly exposed to license plates on other vehicles. They sometimes amuse themselves by reading or playing games with license plates. And because vehicles often travel in residential neighborhoods, youth may be exposed to license plates from their yards or driveways.
Courts have often upheld legislation aimed at protecting the physical and emotional wellbeing of youth, even where First Amendment rights are concerned. For the same reasons schools may refrain from publishing speech that is ungrammatical, poorly written, inadequately researched, biased or prejudiced, vulgar or profane, or unsuitable for immature audiences,” the Secretary of State should be able to restrict the use of offensive words on license plates that are viewed by immature audiences.
The precedents cited involve whether a school can censor t-shirts with profanity on them, which have nothing to do with this case. The ACLU is representing the plaintiffs (there are two of them).