Religious license plate
A Kentucky man's lawsuit has spurred a larger debate over religious vanity license plates.

After a hard-fought battle, Kentucky resident Ben Hart has finally been granted an eye-raising vanity license plate. It reads: I'M GOD.

Harper, who identifies as an atheist (and reportedly is also a ULC minister), initially saw his request get shot down by Kentucky’s Division of Motor Vehicles for being “obscene and vulgar” and “not in good taste.” But he didn’t give up, and filed a lawsuit alongside the ACLU and the Freedom From Religion Foundation.

Hart's lawsuit challenged the notion that government officials could decide what was tasteful when it came to communicating religious, anti-religious or political messages.

“I simply want the same opportunity to select a personal message for my license plate just as any other driver,” explained Hart at the time, drawing a distinction between cursing God, questioning his existence or claiming to be him. Doing so meant Kentucky was effectively taking a position on religion. “There is nothing ‘obscene or vulgar’ about my view that religious beliefs are subject to individual interpretation,” he said. And a judge agreed:

ACLU-KY Legal Director William Sharp's argument that “under the First Amendment, government officials do not have the authority to censor messages simply because they dislike them” seemed especially prescient given that Kentucky actually allows its citizens the option to buy an 'IN GOD WE TRUST' license plate template.

Victory at Last

U.S. District Court Judge Gregory F. Van Tatenhove eventually agreed that the State of Kentucky had gone too far in denying Hart's personalized license plate. Three years after filing the lawsuit, Hart was finally granted his desired message.  

“As the court affirmed, the denial of Ben Hart’s choice of a license plate was pure discrimination,” said FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor. “We are delighted that the court realized the bias the state of Kentucky was displaying toward nonbelievers.”

But Kentucky is not the only battleground for personalized license plates with religious messages.

Checkmate, Theists

Back in 2014, the Motor Vehicle Commission of New Jersey informed Shannon Morgan that her request for the plate 8THEIST carried “connotations offensive to good taste and decency.” Morgan then applied for, and received, a license plate that read BAPTIST. Now with clear evidence of the state was favoring one religious message over another, Morgan filed a lawsuit claiming her First Amendment rights had been violated.

That case was eventually settled in federal court two years later, clearing the way for other license plates such as GODLESS, HEATHEN and BLASFMR.

Forbidden Plates

Current vanity plates laws differ significantly from state to state. Variations on the word “atheist,” for example, are allowed in Vermont but banned in Arkansas. Other race and religion plates such as JESUSC, MUSLM1, and BIGJEW are also banned in certain states. A complete listing of prohibited plates state by state can be found here.

What’s your take? Should people be allowed to put whatever message they want on their bumpers, or is the government right to restrict what can be displayed.

And specifically when it comes to religion, are people of faith justified in finding the I'M GOD license plate offensive? If so, should their complaints be heard?

21 comments

  1. Carl Bernard Elfstrom's Avatar Carl Bernard Elfstrom

    I'm a god, too. But I'm not stupid enough to tell everyone about it. Only those who seek my kingdom.

    1. Lionheart's Avatar Lionheart

      I believe, I believe. You are possibly more credible as a god than the others because at least I can see you, and speak to you, so you are real, and I bet you wouldn’t genocidally kill people, especially children ....right?

      ❤️

    2. Minister Mike's Avatar Minister Mike

      I sure ain't looking for your kingdom, so why are you telling me? Great example, though, of the great lie found in all religions.

  1. Thomas Pederson's Avatar Thomas Pederson

    Mostly a first amendment issue for me. While I personally think many vanity plates are not done in good taste, I still defend a persons right to express it. I can laugh at it, thumbs down it, or just ignor it as well. Other than perhaps being annoying they don’t hurt anyone.

  1. Ilmenheru Terikson's Avatar Ilmenheru Terikson

    Not going to lie Im kinda sorry I didnt try this decades ago.

  1. Minister Carlos Ricardo Walls's Avatar Minister Carlos Ricardo Walls

    We as people were created in God's image.No man or woman is God.Although God resides in us all.There's only one God.A person making this claim is bordering on blasphemy.

    1. Minister Mike's Avatar Minister Mike

      Is there any verifiable evidence there is "only one God."? (Hint, no. If you don't believe me you can ask Zeus, Shiva, Horus, and all the other Gods)

    2. Carl Bernard Elfstrom's Avatar Carl Bernard Elfstrom

      Apparently, Carlos, you've never worshipped a woman the way I have. It's just a game to be played in the bedroom, behind closed doors, when God isn't looking. Or, do you think he lustfully stares at us, while eating popcorn, like he's at his favorite picture show. Don't worry, my God has quite a sense of humour, and thinks I'm hilarious, even when I'm down on my good knee worshipping my lady as a goddess. For all in all, it's just a hand in the bush, in the bush, in the bush...

    3. Lionheart's Avatar Lionheart

      If we were created in gods image we’d be invisible....right? There’s a perfect example he doesn’t exist.

      The difference between me and your god is that if I saw someone raping a child I’d do something about it. Your god is either happy for it to happen, or he’s just not interested. I consider my morals better than your mythical deity.

    4. Mark William Denton's Avatar Mark William Denton

      Like Jesus?

  1. Rev Robert L. Barker's Avatar Rev Robert L. Barker

    From a Metaphysical perspective Ben Hart is absolutely correct.

  1. Carl Bernard Elfstrom's Avatar Carl Bernard Elfstrom

    I like the way Uncle Hannibal put it my good man, "I only kill the rude". And, liver is quite scrumptious with fava beans, and a nice cianti.

  1. Roben L Audi's Avatar Roben L Audi

    Read the book the Laws of Thinking by E Bernard Jordan.......When you read the Bible no where in Matt Mark Luke of John does Jeaus ever tell you to seek him or God.... He tells you Marr 6:33 Seek you first the Kingdom of God and his rightousness and all these things shall be added. and in Luke tells you that it is inside you. Are you not co creators John 14 12-14 2 Peter 1 3-4. Is He not in you ??Are you not in Him???? If you are not doing the greater works as Jesus said we could then where are we???? Having been born of the water (birth) and of Spirit ( rising above this vibration into the Kingdom) As what Jesus ment when he said you had to become as little children before you could enter.....Hummmmm Hypnosis tells you that your sub consciece is your child and only two ways to get to it Hypnosis and Meditation....The Men of Old in the Bible did meditate for it is written there. Going to your child helps you to become one with God. Praying is ony a monologue. meditating is a dialoge. I am God and God is me we are one.

  1. Minister Mike's Avatar Minister Mike

    The real shame is that just a handful of government employees think, and act, as though they have the right to speak for everybody.

  1. William Leon Barber III's Avatar William Leon Barber III

    Such negative people. You remind me of my dimocrate friends. They don’t believe in God because they’ve never seen him. Yet they believe in evolution even though they have never seen anything evolve. That’s our choice and so be it. There is one thing sure of; you and I will someday die. I am wrong for believing in God I have nothing to lose. However if you are wrong....

    1. Lionheart's Avatar Lionheart

      If I am wrong, there is no way I would want to be mixed up with any part of your bloodthirsty, misogynistic, infanticidal deity anyway. You can have him/her.

      I also don't believe in fairies because I have never seen one, have you? If you don't believe in fairies because you have never seen one, what demonstrable evidence do you have that makes you want to believe in your invisible deity?

      1. Carl Bernard Elfstrom's Avatar Carl Bernard Elfstrom

        Take it from Blaçk Sabbath, "Fairies wear boots, you gotta believe me. I tell ya, I tell ya, I tell ya no lies."

    2. Lionheart's Avatar Lionheart

      Yes we have seen evolution! We witness evolution with diseases evolving and becoming stronger to antibiotics. Mankind, through science, has actually messed around with evolution with plant DNA. Just one example is the hybrid tea rose. Another example is the evolution of the varieties of canines, which all evolved from the Wolf. These are just a few small examples of evolution that can be witnessed in a relatively shorter period of time. Evolution in general, left on its own, occurs through genetic mutations over thousands of years.

      As for your deity, it still doesn’t seem able to show itself to anyone to prove it exists, which one would think a real deity would be able to do to solve the religious issues the world has.

  1. Rod Gesner's Avatar Rod Gesner

    best Answer so as not to seem Narcissistic and Misogynistic; "We Are God/dess" or as Pogo Put it " We have Met our Enemy and it is US"

    '

  1. Carl Bernard Elfstrom's Avatar Carl Bernard Elfstrom

    I saw another great t-shirt at Amazon I'm thinking about getting that reads: I'm going to Hell in every religion. And, from what I've gathered, Hell is a much better place to be than the Christian conception of Heaven, where they're trapped throughout eternity. At least in Hell you can check out anytime you like, but you can never leave. Cerberus will see to that. It's like Mark Twain said, "I'll go to Heaven for the climate, and Hell for the company." Of course, that was before android smart phones. If you just take one with you, you won't ever have to even check out. And, like the song goes "Pleased to meet you. Won't you guess my name?

  1. Carl Bernard Elfstrom's Avatar Carl Bernard Elfstrom

    It seems to me that most of the people I've ever talked to or heard talking about it were too scared of iether lack of approval by others or going to Hell, or both, to ever say or think there isn't a god. I especially have gotten that impression from many of those who claim to be Christian. Yet, I do believe in a creator, and pray to the masculine and feminine aspects of Divinity, as perceived throughout most of nature, in their image, as above so below, beyond that I can only perceive of it being what the Hermetists call The All. Blessed be!

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