8THEIST License Plate Denied, Atheist Claims First Amendment Lawsuit

An 8THEIST license plate design request by an atheist named Shannon Morgan was allegedly denied by the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission, and now the woman is filing a lawsuit claiming a First Amendment violation.

In a related report by The Inquisitr, atheists who are seeking to prevent the 9/11 museum from displaying the World Trade Center cross have upset many. Also, last year the Atheist monument cause d a lot of controversy, but the Satanist monument was predicted by atheist groups.

Morgan self-identifies as an atheist and so when she filed to receive her personalize 8THEIST license plate she was surprised to receive a rejection from MVC website because her request was considered objectionable content. But when she tried to request a personalized license plate with the word "BAPTIST" being used the system did not raise any red flags. She says she tried to contact the MVC but did not receive an explanation for why her 8THEIST license plate was considered objectionable while Christian terminology was not.

Morgan also says she is offended by being told her religious beliefs are considered objectionable:

"There is nothing offensive about being atheist. I should be able to express my sincerely held beliefs with a license plate just like everyone else."
Sandy Grossman, a spokesperson for the Motor Vehicle Commission. claims the organization researches the meaning of each request to review whether it is offensive. The New Jersey Administrative Code prohibits personalized license plates from having " [a]ny combination of alphabetic characters or numbers, or both, that may carry connotations offensive to good taste and decency." If a special meaning cannot be determined a letter is supposed to be sent to the requester, which Morgan says she did not receive. Grossman says atheist-themed plates like the 8THEIST license plate have been issued before, but in the past there was also a lawsuit by David Silverman, president of American Atheists, who was denied his ATHE1ST license plate design by the MVC due to similar reasons.

Thus when Morgan filed her lawsuit this is what was stated:

"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. Although the commission eventually relented and granted Mr. Silverman his requested license plate, it refuses to allow Ms. Morgan's requested plate."
Americans United for Separation of Church and State says the 8THEIST license plate rejection represents a larger problem in American society, claiming that atheists are treated by the government as second-class citizens.

If Shannon Morgan wins the lawsuit over the 8THEIST license plate she demands the MVC adopt a viewpoint-neutral criteria for license plate denial and also asks that her attorney costs be reimbursed.

[Image via Thomas Anderson/flickr.com]