One of the more ingenious ways state governments get you to part with your ill-gotten gains (if you are rich, that is) is to sell you a vanity license plate. Since most of us think we are perfection on two legs, something special to be celebrated and foisted on others, a license plate that caters to our uniqueness is a real easy sell. Anything that separates us from the rabble, getting one of these is a small price to pay. I don’t know who first thought of this idea, but he should be enshrined on the Mount Rushmore of civic revenue grabbers, along with the inventor of the toll roads, speed traps, and red light cameras.

Since Californians are known for their hubris and egos, I suspect it was birthed right here.

The first iteration was a personalized license plate.  For a nominal fee you can show the rest of the motorists how cool, special, or eclectic you are. Proud of your avocation, hobby, girlfriend or city where you live, prove it, get a personalized license plate.

The state and those that followed saw the golden goose for what is was, so they added symbols to the mix. Want a heart, a hand, an exclamation mark, or another cute emoji? Place your order.

Soon all possible phrases or words were taken. Most vanity owners could not stop with just one car. You can’t have a vanity plate on one car without getting the wife one, and the kids. No doubt there is a vehicle code section somewhere declaring the forfeiture of all property if plates are mixed and not consistent.

What to do? Another brainstorm, how about a “Special Interest” license plate frame? For another nominal fee (the two favorite words of all bureaucrats) you can get both. Special interest plates can be about anything and trust me, when all is said and done, there will be hundreds of different types. You can get one with a whale on it, Yosemite, Clear Lake, the Redwoods, multiple sports, flowers or animals. If you are a beekeeper, yep, we got one of those too.

Now, the fly in the ointment, what happens when you want to purchase a personalized plate but those Philistines at the capital won’t print what you want? Sue them, of course;

State governments shouldn’t be rejecting perfectly inoffensive license plates. And thanks to one atheist’s lawsuit, we’re a step closer to making sure that doesn’t happen in Kentucky.

This case began in 2016, when the head of Kentucky’s Division of Motor Vehicles rejected Ben Hart‘s request to get a license plate reading “IM GOD,” even though he had it (without incident) in Ohio, where he had lived for the previous twelve years. That’s when he filed a lawsuit with the help of the ACLU of Kentucky and the Freedom From Religion Foundation.

Most be nice to be rich enough to hire a lawyer and sue the state over a license plate.

Ever since inception there existed a battle of wills between those clever consumers and the keepers of all things decent and moral as what naughty, provocative, provoking phrase could get approved. And some get the gold metal.

I suspect the reason this guy got his request shot down was due to another misguided effort to placate Muslims. “I’m God” would not stir your average Christian to either outrage or violence. Much like ,”I’m a douche-bag”, if I saw it on a plate I would chuckle, wanting to know why the driver is so hard on himself. References to God, Jesus, Christ or any religious inference, zero tick on my outrage meter. But any mention of Allah or Muhammad and sanity goes right out the window.

I get that decency standards must apply here. Can’t have anything obscene or racial but “offensive” is such a subjective term. I would hope that state censors would err on the side of free expression, they don’t.

This guy’s lawyer is laying his client’s case on the pedestal of  the 1st Amendment, free expression. I would be interested to get your guy’s take on this, see, I don’t think it applies here at all. You can say, “I’m God”, wear it on your clothes, even make a bumper sticker proclaiming such, but there is no 1st Amendment right to purchase a state approved vanity license plate. You have a right to say many disgusting disagreeable offensive things, the state is not obligated to aid you in your free expression of your 1st Amendment right.

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Judge Dredd, Pro Se

This is a fairly easy one, Rich and I’m almost gobsmacked as to why you couched the rejection of the verbiage on the plate as a Muslim conspiracy. The complainant doesn’t cite Islam once in his reasoning for the phrase on his vanity plate, and the state doesn’t say the plate was rejected on the grounds that it might offend Muslims. Maybe triggering is your thing, but it is more awkward than watching obama trying to noodle arm an opening pitch over home plate in the most cringeworthy attempt possible. I can’t read minds here but the state gave two… Read more »

It is a 1st amendment issue, as the government can’t tell people what religion if any to follow, and they can’t tell someone he’s not God, or whatever flying spaghetti monster they happen to imagine themselves to be.

Besides, I’m God, so there.

Judge Dredd, Pro Se

Sorry buddy I just can’t buy that some hicktown in Kentucky is going to take the legal angle that they are worried about offending Muslims, and even if they did that sounds like a pretty specious argument to make in the interest of “impartiality.” So, the ball is in your court. I gave you my opinion of how this went down, and why a judge had to begrudgingly move the case forward to schedule it on the docket. You explain to me how, even in the slimmest of slim chances the commonwealth of ‘Tucky takes the piss weak stance of… Read more »

Judge Dredd, Pro Se

Ok, let me answer the 1st amendment issue: I didn’t realize I was going to be cornered into something I don’t believe the plaintiff nor the defendant are arguing. No, I do not believe this is a first amendment issue. I’m sure Kentucky has legal guidlines of what is considered offensive, and that’s where this battle royale will go down. It’s probably universally agreed that you can’t just have anything stamped onto the plate, otherwise I’m getting a P.O. box in Kentucky tomorrow just so my plate can read “Donald Trump is an obese orange cuck” . The central argument… Read more »

Judge Dredd, Pro Se

I did read it, they’re invoking the first amendment only in-so-much as it pertains to viewpoint discrimination. No matter which way Kentucky argues the license plate is treated under state law, be it public, limited public, or non public forum, they cannot engage in viewpoint discrimination.

So. Kentucky has a forum that allows for the invocation of a god, yet tells hart his viewpoint is offensive. Absent profanity, on what grounds could it be considered offensive?

See? It involves the first amendment but only for the purposes of discrimination. It is ultimately a discrimination suit.

Judge Dredd, Pro Se

No, you are not right about that. In the statement of facts line item number 16 the plaintiffs argue that Kentucky, in fact, allows for religious statements on license plates. There is no “ban” on those statements on license plates. “Vulgar and offensive” is a discretionary legal authority that allows states to “reasonably” reject statements under THAT definition. This would colloquially include scatalogical statements and profanity. For example “shit happens” as a license plate could be rejected because of the word shit. It is arbitrary and capricious to reject the VIEWPOINT that bad things happen. The state cannot engage in… Read more »

Judge Dredd, Pro Se

Lastly, you asked me about the judge begrudgingly adding the case to the docket and why I believe it is begrudgingly so they did it. It is specifically for line number 16 in the factual allegations. The plaintiffs say that Kentucky allows for religious statements on the plates “upon information and belief” . They are saying “I don’t have a specific instance but I swear they do. At least I swear I believe they do.” The judge wrote in the order that the case moves forward because, as is federal procedure from everything I understand, the judge MUST consider the… Read more »

Judge Dredd, Pro Se

The complaint they submitted is in the article. In the instant suit, under the factual allegations, on line 16 they state that “upon information and belief” Kentucky allows religious viewpoints on license plates, and has approved them in the past.

Zurvan

I’d say it’s more of a 14th Amendment Equal Protection Clause issue. The Government made vanity plates a thing for all citizens. If someone can get a plate saying “ILUVGOD” someone else should be able to get a plate saying “IH8GOD”, or in this case, “IM GOD”. Any of the above examples are likely to offend someone, because if there’s one thing both political spectrum’s have in common in this country, it’s being offended over stupid things. As far as the rest of it, it’s all just supposition. It could be because of fear of Muslim outrage, or it could… Read more »

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