The state of New Jersey apparently feels that atheists are offensive, or at least finds the thought of vanity license plates promoting that view unsavory. When noted atheist David Silverman went to apply for a personalized plate publicizing his religious views, or lack thereof, the state turned him down.
Silverman took to social media to voice his displeasure. @MrAtheistPants tweeted out:
“My vanity "ATHEIST" license plate was just refused by the state. Reason: It's offensive. #wronganswer”
The New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission does have a list of hundreds of words that cannot be published on license plates in the Garden State, but neither ATHEIST nor THEIST is on the list, according to Auto Blog. MVC spokesman Mike Horan said applications are reviewed on a case-by-case basis, so it's possible the list has grown to include those terms.
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In the comments section of a story about the incident on Atheistnexus.org, a user named Pat wrote: “Exactly WTF is the "Garden State" thinking? Indiana allows plates that say "In God We Trust" at no extra cost than any other standard plate. I've seen vanity plates in Illinois with several and sundry religious messages, e.g. I LUV JC, GOD IS GR8, etc., ad nauseum. Since when did the First Amendment only apply to believers? And, what's worse, since when did the First Amendment allow the government to allow themselves, under the guise of government sanction vehicle registration taxes, to be the tool of bibble [sic] thumpers?
Silverman is the President of American Atheists. He has already filed an appeal about the state’s decision.