States Should Let Atheists Have Their Vanity License Plates

Of all the things that are wrong with the state of New Jersey, it is bizarre to me that this is where the government would draw a line in the sand. When I first saw the headline, “NJ woman’s rejected atheist license plate violates First Amendment, lawsuit argues,” I assumed she wanted something shocking, offensive, and blasphemous on her license plates.

But that seems not to be the case, according to the story.

From NJ.com:

A Cumberland County woman argues that the state Motor Vehicle Commission’s alleged denial of issuing an “8THEIST” license plate violated her First Amendment rights, according to a lawsuit filed on Thursday.

Shannon Morgan, of the Leesburg section in Maurice River Township, identifies herself as an atheist, according to the lawsuit, and attempted to personalize her license plate to read “8THEIST.”

“There is nothing offensive about being atheist,” Morgan said. “I should be able to express my sincerely held beliefs with a license plate just like everyone else.”

The lawsuit was filed in federal court.

She is represented by Ayesha N. Khan, the legal director for Americans United for Separation of Church and State — a religious liberty watchdog group based in Washington, D.C.

“The state of New Jersey is favoring religion while disparaging non-belief,” said Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of the group.

“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,” he added.

When she originally went on the commission’s website to request a personalized license plate last November, according to her lawsuit, her request was allegedly denied by the website because it was deemed objectionable.

Although 8THEIST was allegedly denied, the lawsuit continues, Morgan entered “BAPTIST” as a potential license plate and it was not flagged as objectionable.

I think the claim that atheists are second class citizens is ludicrous. But withholding the plate “8THEIST” from circulation does provide evidence for that claim. It is stupid to cause a grievance over such an unimportant thing.

We all know it is legal to be an atheist in the United States. So why would it not be allowable to describe oneself by that word?

Disallowing that license plate is the wrong way to exert influence against atheism.