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First Amendment

Woman says in lawsuit that she was denied personalized atheist license plate

Posted Apr 21, 2014 4:41 PM CDT
By Mark Hansen

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A New Jersey woman is suing the state's Motor Vehicle Commission, asserting that it refused to issue her the personalized license plate "8THEIST."

Shannon Morgan's lawsuit, filed recently in federal court, contends that the alleged refusal violates her First Amendment rights, the Newark Star-Ledger reports.

"There is nothing offensive about being atheist," Morgan told the newspaper. "I should be able to express my sincerely held beliefs with a license plate just like everyone else."

Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, which represents Morgan, said the issue is no small matter.

"The state of New Jersey is favoring religion while disparaging nonbelief," he said.

A spokeswoman for the state Motor Vehicle Commission refused to comment on Morgan's claim because it is a legal matter. But she said the commission has issued atheist-themed license plates in the past.

"We have no objection and continue to issue plates with these types of configurations," spokeswoman Sandy Grossman told the newspaper.

In fact, the commission went through a similar battle last year, according to the Star-Ledger, when New Jersey resident David Silverman, president of American Atheists, was initially denied his request for the license plate "ATHE1ST."

But that decision was quickly reversed, the newspaper says.

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