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First Amendment

‘Infidel’ license plate rejection spurs suit by Army veteran

Posted Sep 12, 2013 7:55 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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An Iraq veteran has sued the state of Michigan after it denied him a personalized license plate with a variation of the word “infidel.”

Michael Matwyuk, a former Army sergeant, is represented by the American Civil Liberties Union, report the Wall Street Journal Law Blog (sub. req.) and the Army Times. Marwyuk says insurgents in Iraq called U.S. soldiers “infidels” as an insult, but he and other U.S. troops viewed the word with pride.

“We don’t subscribe to terrorism, Shariah law and oppression,” Marwyuk told Army Times. “We are champions of freedom, and if that makes us infidels good for me and good for the rest of us.”

The suit (PDF) claims a First Amendment violation.

Marwyuk told Army Times he tried to obtain plates with the word “INFDL” or “INF1DL.” He received a rejection letter telling him the plates “could not be issued because it might carry a connotation offensive to good taste or decency.” Plates with offensive terms are not allowed under Michigan law.

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