An atheist in Kentucky is suing state transportation secretary Greg Thomas after being denied his personalized “I’M GOD” license plate.
Bennie L. Hart told the local press that the state official had rejected his application to keep his license plate, one which he had already been using for 12 years in Ohio, on the grounds that it was “vulgar and offensive.”
Both the American Civil Liberties Union of Kentucky and Freedom From Religion Foundation have joined Hart’s lawsuit against the state, saying that government authorities should not be allowed to deny anyone freedom of expression based on religious or political preferences.
“Under the First Amendment, government officials do not have the authority to censor messages simply because they dislike them,” said ACLU-KY Legal Director William Sharp. “And in this instance, personalized license plates are a form of individual speech equally deserving of First Amendment protection.”
Hart told the BBC he hadn’t had any problems registering the license plate in Ohio, and hadn’t anticipated any in his new home. “I simply want the same opportunity to select a personal message for my license plate just as any other driver,” he said.
Hart, who became an atheist at the age of 15, explained that his plates were meant to display that no one definition of ‘God’ is more righteous than another. “There are six definitions of God in the American Heritage Dictionary,” he said. “Number five is a very handsome man and my wife says I’m a very handsome man – and nobody argues with my wife.”