Remember when David Silverman tried to get a personalized license plate in New Jersey that said ATHE1ST? They eventually relented on that but have now denied another resident a similar plate and Americans United for Separation of Church and State have filed a lawsuit over it.
Americans United for Separation of Church and State says New Jersey officials can’t approve vanity license plates with religious language while denying a resident one that reads “8THEIST.”
In a lawsuit filed today with the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey, Americans United said the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission demeaned atheists and favored religion over non-belief when it rejected the specialized plate.
“The state of New Jersey is favoring religion while disparaging non-belief,” said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United. “It simply has no right to do that.”
Added Lynn, “This license plate issue may seem like a small matter but it is indicative of a much larger problem – atheists are often treated by the government as second-class citizens.”
The lawsuit, Morgan v. Martinez, was brought on behalf of Leesburg, N.J., resident Shannon Morgan, an atheist. In November 2013, Morgan attempted to register for an “8THEIST” plate on the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission’s website, only to have it rejected because it is “objectionable.” She then entered “BAPTIST” as a proposed plate in the commission website, and that plate was deemed permissible.
Morgan contacted the commission for assistance with registering her “8THEIST” plate and was told by an employee that it was unknown why her request had been denied. Other attempts made by Morgan to get approval for her plate were ignored.
Is the state of New Jersey really this clueless? Apparently so, though I don’t expect that they’ll bother fighting the suit. If they do, something is seriously wrong there.