• Aug 27th 2013 at 12:58PM
  • 389
Every state has different rules governing what can and can't be displayed on vanity license plates. Not only do they vary, but many are vague about what combinations of letters and/or numbers are acceptable, which forces the state to determine acceptability on a case-by-case basis. Remember the 'ILVTOFU' controversy of 2011? Or what about Georgia's rejection of gay-themed license plates?

New Jersey resident David Silverman has published a tale on Twitter regarding his application to the state's Motor Vehicle Commission for a personalized license plate that reads "ATHEIST." Silverman says in his tweet that the reason given for the state's rejection of his godless vanity plate was that it's offensive.

We don't have much insight into how New Jersey decides which vanity plates are acceptable, but we did find this report published earlier this year on NJ.com that reveals a list of 1,085 words banned by the MVC for use on vanity plates. ATHEIST is not on the list (nor is THEIST, for that matter), but MVC spokesman Mike Horan told the reporter that applications are reviewed on a case-by-case basis, so the list has probably grown since then.

New Jersey's got another problem: David Silverman isn't just any atheist, he's the President of American Atheists, a group that's been around since the '60s with a track record of taking cities and states to court to uphold the rights of non-believers. It doesn't sound like Silverman was looking for a fight, but the Garden State just gave him one. He's already filed his first appeal.

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 1 Year Ago
      Have you ever seen a license plate from South Carolina? They say "In God We Trust" across the top of them. Not all of them. Must be an option at the DMV. Yes, our coins say it too. So if someone wants to reject religion then they should have that option on their government issued license plates - if not the currency. On a side note, how funny would it be to go into the SC DMV and request an In God We Trust vanity plate that says ATHIEST on it?
        • 1 Year Ago
        Texas also has a Christian based plate with "One state under God" underneath. Anyone want to put "Allah" on it?
      Eric G. Wood
      • 1 Year Ago
      I'm a Christian and I believe NJ is wrong for denying the vanity plate of "Atheist." It is not offensive to me. It basically just says what he believes or does not believe. www.canigetawordin.com
      • 1 Year Ago
      Ban them all - god or no god. Both are just slightly different flavors of the same thing. If ATHEIST is offensive, ao is any god stuff. I hope this guy BBQs NJ DMV.
        • 1 Year Ago
        Why? Freedom of speech is an important freedom in our constitution. People are allowed to have whatever spirituality (or lack of any) they wish, and if they want to express it on their cars they should do so! The car in America is the symbol of Freedom!
          • 1 Year Ago
      • 1 Year Ago
      I'm surprised this is happening in NJ. I would have expected something like this in Mississippi or Oklahoma. On second thought, a person would have to be crazy or suicidal to drive around with "ATHEIST" license plate in those two states.
        • 1 Year Ago
        Not crazy or suicidal, but just make sure you put it on a ratty old car, because you know your car is going to be keyed.
      • 1 Year Ago
      Wonder if the state also prohibits the term IMGOD, or just GOD on a license plate...?
      • 1 Year Ago
      So New Jersey can find 1085 words that will offend someone. i only wish that I knew even a small percentage of them so that I could express myself more clearly while driving!
      The Darb
      • 1 Year Ago
      I thought we not only had freedom of religion, but also freedom from religion. It is a sad day when someone forces their morals, whatever they are, on someone else.
      • 1 Year Ago
      Does NJ allow plates that say: WWJD? MITZVA? ALLAH? etc, or are they offensive as well?
      Alan Wallace
      • 1 Year Ago
      The guy who lives down the street from me has a license plate that reads "YAHWEH." I am not offended. Someone I used to work with had a plate that read, "GDLUVSU." Still not offended. But then, what other people put on their license plates is none of my business.
      Aaron C
      • 1 Year Ago
      I'm a Christian, and I don't understand why if we live in a free society we don't have the freedom to express who we are. If this person wants to put the word atheist on their plate why not let him? Who is it hurting? Besides it makes them an easy target to force my beliefs down their throat ; ) that last sentence to be clear, was sarcasm..
      Leather Bear
      • 1 Year Ago
      Not seeing ATHEIST as offensive at all (provocative, maybe...),. One of the more amusing ones I recall: Satch Carlson (Autoweek columnist back in the day) managed to get "SMEGMA" past the Alaskan DMV as a vanity plate for his old Saab 96 rally car (his reasoning: the weathered OE paint on his 96 had a passing resemblance to that particular substance). On a related note, while I was cruising the SR-101 freeway south of San Francisco the other day, I saw an out of state car (South Carolina) with "In God We Trust" as the logo below the license #. Does anyone from SC know if this is standard DMV issue or a "special interest" plate chosen by the vehicle owner?
      Mike De Fleuriot
      • 1 Year Ago
      "Borrowed from a list made by Austin Cline." Christian Privileges for Holidays & Holy Days: * Many stores take the Christian Sabbath into account * Most Christians don’t have to work on their holiest days * Christians can assume they will see TV specials and hear music related to their holidays * Christians can erect Christian holiday displays without fearing vandalism * Christians expect to be greeted with references to their holidays (Merry Christmas) * Christians can ignore and be ignorant of other religions’ holidays * School events will probably address Christian holidays Christian Privileges in American Culture: * When travelling, Christians can assume they'll find churches of their denomination * It’s easy for Christians to find a religious site to marry * Christians easily find Christian movies, radio programs, and TV shows * When someone talks about or thanks God, Christians can assume it’s their god * Christians will find Bibles in their hotel rooms * Christians have many Christian charities to donate to or get assistance from * Christians needn’t worry about finding foods to meet religious dietary requirements Christian Privileges against Discrimination and Bigotry: * Christians can assume that they won’t be discriminated against because of their religion * Christians can assume that their opinion won’t be ignored because of their religion * Christians need not worry about moving to a place where Christians aren’t welcome * Christians rarely encounter groups that exclude Christians * Christians don’t worry about revealing their religion to parents, friends * Christians can discriminate in ways not otherwise allowed & avoid members of other religions Christian Privileges in Schools: * Christian children will see other Christians in lessons about history * Christian children will participate in events relating to Christian holy days * Christian children will find or easily start school clubs dedicated to Christianity * Christian athletes are encouraged by Christian coaches * Christian children might avoid being exposed to foreign religions * Public school space is often shared with Christian churches * Christians can easily find private schools that cater to their religion Christian Privilege, Fear, and Security: * Christians can wear Christian clothing or jewellery without fear * Christians can promote their religion on cars or houses without fear of vandalism * Christians don’t have to educate their kids about persecution for their own protection * Christians can ignore the language and customs of other religions without censure * Christians need not worry if their religion will hinder their professional ambitions * Christians don’t have to worry about hate groups dedicated to wiping out Christianity
        Mike De Fleuriot
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Mike De Fleuriot
        Christian Privileges with Christianity: * Christians aren’t expected to speak for all Christians or everyone in a denomination * Whatever Christians do, they need not worry that it will reflect poorly on Christianity * Christians easily shop for items related to Christianity, even in speciality Christian stores * Successful Christians aren’t told that they are greedy because of their religion * The word “Christian” is treated as a label representing the best human attributes Christian Privileges in the Law: * Where relevant, laws take the Christian sabbath (Sunday) into account * Laws & regulations come with built-in exemptions for Christians & Christian beliefs. * Christians can assume that most politicians are Christians who represent Christian interests * Christians can criticize the government or society without being labelled cultural outsiders * Christians can assume that politicians won’t attack their religion * Christians assume that government prayers will be Christian in nature (they usually are)
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