According to a recent lawsuit filing, a Cumberland County woman is suing the MVC - arguing that their refusal to issue her a vanity license plate “8thiest” violates her First Amendment rights.

Shannon Morgan of Maurice River Township is an atheist, and wished to proclaim that on her license plate, the application of which was rejected by the Motor Vehicle Commission.

So she decided to do an end-around and wrote in “Baptist” – which was subsequently accepted.
Wham-o! Lawsuit city!

According to this from

“There is nothing offensive about being atheist,” Morgan said. “I should be able to express my sincerely held beliefs with a license plate just like everyone else.”

The lawsuit was filed in federal court.

She is represented by Ayesha N. Khan, the legal director for Americans United for Separation of Church and State — a religious liberty watchdog group based in Washington, D.C.

“The state of New Jersey is favoring religion while disparaging non-belief,” said Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of the group.

When she originally went on the commission’s website to request a personalized license plate last November, according to her lawsuit, her request was allegedly denied by the website because it was deemed objectionable.

Although 8theist was allegedly denied, the lawsuit continues, Morgan entered “Baptist” as a potential license plate and it was not flagged as objectionable.

Morgan allegedly attempted to contact the state Motor Vehicle Commission in November and March, according to the lawsuit, but received no response or explanation for the denial.

“We review every request personally ... and we review them for anything that’s offensive of objectionable,” said Sandy Grossman, a spokesperson for the Motor Vehicle Commission.

For relief, Morgan requests that she be allowed "8theist" as a license plate and that the commission adopts specific, objective, viewpoint-neutral criteria for license plate denial. She also requests to be reimbursed for attorney fees.

The Motor Vehicle Commission went through a similar battle last August when David Silverman, president of American Atheists and Cranford resident, attempted to get “athe1st" as a license plate.

Silverman was denied his license plate after it was deemed offensive by a Motor Vehicle Commission clerk, according to reports, but the decision was reversed later that month.

Without any clear-cut guideline as to why the “atheist” designation would be deemed offensive, the MVC sets itself up for what I can only deduce are frivolous lawsuits.

Especially given that she would have been allowed to display “Baptist” or conceivably some other sect.

And while the state brings in a small chunk of change from the issuance of vanity plates, I think it would be a small price to pay to just do away with them once and for all.

If you really need to advertise who you are or what your belief system is or isn’t – get a bumper sticker.

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