Turtles all the way down

An atheist just won the right to sue N.J. over a rejected vanity license plate

Posted by doctore0 on May 15, 2015

atheistlicenceplateAn atheist in New Jersey has won the right to sue after she was allegedly denied a request for a vanity license plate that read “8THEIST.”

According to, this week U.S. District Court Freda Wolfson judge struck down an attempt by the state of New Jersey to dismiss a lawsuit filed by Shannon Morgan, a resident of Leesburg. Morgan, who identifies as atheist, claims she visited the state Motor Vehicle Commission’s (MVC) website in November 2013 and entered “8THEIST” as her preferred title for a vanity plate. Her submission was rebuffed, however, with the website telling her that the “requested plate is considered objectionable.” When Morgan tried “BAPTIST” as another option, she was reportedly allowed to proceed through the registration process.

Morgan eventually filed a lawsuit in April of last year, accusing the commission of violating her free speech. Officials, in turn, insisted her case was invalid because the rejection was the result of a “computer error,” not intentional discrimination, noting they eventually allowed her to have the license plate anyway. But Morgan’s lawyers say the issue is bigger than one license plate, and pointed out that the commission’s rules — specifically a policy that allows the MVC to decline plates they deem “offensive to good taste and decency” — are still in place, which they say grants the government “unbridled discretion to prohibit speech based on the speaker’s viewpoint.”
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