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Atheist sues over license plate refusal

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LEESBURG, N.J. — Shannon Morgan identifies herself as an atheist and wants the world, or at least the car behind her, to know it. But the state of New Jersey says no.

Morgan, of Leesburg, is suing the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission for rejecting her request for a vanity license plate reading “8THEIST,” according to a formal complaint filed Thursday with the district court.

But the commission nixed her request, saying the message “may carry connotations offensive to good taste and decency,” according to the complaint.

An Americans United for Separation of Church and State legal team is now helping her sue the commission claiming Morgan’s First Amendment rights were violated.

“The state of New Jersey is favoring religion while disparaging nonbelief,” said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of the group. “It simply has no right to do that.”

Morgan claims that she was denied a license plate for “8THEIST” but approved for one that read “BAPTIST” and that this “expresses a preference for theistic religious beliefs, over non-theistic beliefs” according to the complaint.

This case is all too familiar to another New Jersey native, David Silverman, who had to petition for a vanity license plate announcing his atheistic views. After he was initially rejected for a plate reading, “ATHE1ST,” Silverman filed a formal complaint with the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission. He says that within three days, a supervisor at the commission issued him the plate.

“The word ‘atheist,’ in my opinion, is not objectionable,” Silverman, who is president of American Atheists, told CNN. “It’s not a bad word and shouldn’t be regarded as a bad word.”

He takes issue with the process, saying that it’s problematic that atheists have to jump through hoops only to be denied, then have to appeal before their license plates get approved.

Calls to the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission were not immediately returned.

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  • Vincent Wolf

    That’s how religion holds dominance over our lives by negating everything atheist. They despite and hate atheists more than Hitler hated Jews. Religion is a dangerous virus on mankind and hopefully man will evolve beyond it. But doubtful.

    • lxix13

      She should not have been denied.
      Just as an observation. I am around Christians more than Atheists and I hear way more negativity from Atheists towards Christians than the other way around. I don’t know if the Atheists I have been exposed to are just a special breed of mean.

  • artviii

    Theocracy means a government where God rules. America is a theocracy according to its social compact, the Declaration of Independence that declares Americans receives their inalienable rights from a Creator and our moral rectitude from a Supreme Judge. America was established under the “Laws of Nature and Nature’s God.” Our National Motto is “In God We Trust.” Our Pledge of Allegiance declares we are “One nation under God” and from God we receive liberty and justice. The subscription clause of the US Constitution declares Jesus as ‘our Lord.” God ruling over the passions of man is the only safe refuge for life, liberty, and property against man’s potential depravity, and by extension, the certain misuse of civil authority.
    In 1954, President Eisenhower responding to the Communist threat by encouraged Congress to add the words “under God” to the pledge. Communism is based on atheism. America is not an atheist nation and to proclaim this and encourage national Atheism is to redefine America and is to join the communist conquest of America thereby adding your name to the list of America’s domestic enemies.
    If you cannot uphold America’s pledge of allegiance- “I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands, one Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all” your allegiance is somewhere else, and you cannot be called a friend to liberty, or worse, you are a domestic enemy that must be defeated.

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