FRANKFORT, Ky. — A federal judge nominated to the bench by then-President George W. Bush has ruled in favor of a professing atheist who sued the Kentucky Department of Motor Vehicles for rejecting his application for a specialty license plate that reads “I’m God.”
“[T]he law as applied to Mr. Hart is neither reasonable nor viewpoint neutral. To allow such plates as ‘IM4GOD’ and ‘LUVGOD’ but reject “IM GOD” belies viewpoint neutrality. Regardless, the court concludes that in this case, [the law] is an unreasonable and therefore impermissible restriction on Mr. Hart’s First Amendment rights,” wrote Judge Gregory Van Tatenhove.
As previously reported, Ben Hart had the license plate on his vehicle for 12 years when he lived in Ohio, but when Hart moved to Kentucky, his application was denied by the Transportation Cabinet of the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) because it violated state regulations that ban “vulgar or obscene” messages.
Hart consequently contacted the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF), which sent a letter to DMV Commissioner Rodney Kuhl to request that the decision be overturned.
“We request that the Division of Motor Vehicle Licensing immediately approved the personalized plate,” it read. “The division’s restriction of the message because of the viewpoint being expressed violates the free speech clause of the First Amendment.”
“It should be plain to see that a state government may not restrict an ‘I’m God’ personalized plate,” the letter continued. “An individual has a protected free speech right to select that message, as they
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