Shannon Morgan filed a lawsuit in New Jersey claiming she is being discriminated against because of her beliefs. She requested a personalized license plate which read "8THEIST" but it was denied. The request was denied because it was considered "objectionable." After it was rejected, Morgan tested "BAPTIST" and she had no problem.
Her representation for the lawsuit is Ayesha N. Khan from Americans United for Separation of Church and State based out of Washington, D.C. They are filing under the First Amendment saying the Motor Vehicle Commission (MVC) was violating her rights. "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."
It wasn't just the computer that stopped her either. A spokesman for the MVC said "We review every request personally…and we review them for anything that's offensive or objectionable." Because of this, Morgan is saying the MVC is favoring religion over atheism. The lawsuit states "She believes the commission's decision to deny her a plate that reads '8THEIST' but to allow her one that reads 'BAPTIST' expresses a preference for theistic religious belief over non-theistic belief."
The executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, Barry W. Lynn, said "The state of New Jersey is favoring religion while disparaging non-belief. This license plate issue may seem like a small matter but it is indicative of a much larger problem – atheists are often treated by the government as second class citizens."
This is not the first time an atheist licensed plate has been denied. In August when American Atheist president David Silverman requested the license plate "ATHE1ST' his request was denied. The MVC deemed it offensive but the decision was reversed later that month.