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.