Shannon Morgan, of Maurice River Township, N.J., is suing the state because the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission denied her request for a license plate that reads: “8THEIST.”
In her lawsuit filed yesterday, Morgan claims she requested this license plate on the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission website in November 2013, but was rejected because 8THEIST "may carry connotations offensive to good taste and decency." However, when she asked for “BAPTIST” that plate was not rejected.
“There is nothing offensive about being atheist,” Morgan told NJ.com. “I should be able to express my sincerely held beliefs with a license plate just like everyone else.”
Morgan is represented by the Americans United for Separation of Church and State whose executive director Barry Lynn stated in a press release:
The state of New Jersey is favoring religion while disparaging non-belief. 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.
According to the Associated Press, Morgan claims she sent the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission a letter by registered mail and tried calling, but never got a response.
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Sandy Grossman, a spokesperson for the Motor Vehicle Commission, said in a statement, "We review every request personally... and we review them for anything that’s offensive of objectionable. We have no objection and continue to issue plates with these types of [atheist] configurations."
David Silverman, president of American Atheists, requested “ATHE1ST" as a license plate in August 2013, but it too was deemed offensive by a New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission clerk. However, that judgement was later reversed.
Morgan’s lawsuit cites Silverman’s experience, “The commission thus has a practice of denying personalized license plates that identify vehicle owners as atheists, thereby discriminating against atheist viewpoints and expressing a preference for theism over non-theism.”
Sources: Associated Press, Americans United for Separation of Church and State, NJ.com