The Washington Post

New Jersey accused of discriminating against pro-atheism personalized license plates

So claims the plaintiff in Morgan v. Martinez (D.N.J. filed Apr. 17, 2014), and gives screenshots that support her claim — 8THEIST was rejected as supposedly “objectionable,” while BAPTIST was allowed. She also quotes an e-mail that had been sent in an earlier incident, to a driver who wanted an ATHE1ST plate:

Thank you for your interest in New Jersey’s personalized plates. Unfortunately your request
must be denied at this time due to the reason(s) stated below.

Requested Plate Number: ATHE1ST
Reason for Denial: Objectionable or Need Further Clarification

After Mr. ATHE1ST complained, the state issued the plate; but Morgan’s claim is that the 8THEIST and ATHE1ST incidents show that the state is unconstitutionally discriminating against pro-atheism plates — and, if the facts as to those plates, and as to the BAPTIST plate, are as reported in the complaint, then Morgan seems right. Whatever power a state might have in choosing what to allow on its license plates, discriminating against pro-atheism messages, as compared to pro-religion messages, would be clearly unconstitutional viewpoint discrimination under the Free Speech Clause (and possibly an Establishment Clause violation as well).

For more license plate law, see ICUHAJI, IM GAY, 14CV88, PRO NRA, JN36TN, HOE, and ILVTOFU.

Eugene Volokh teaches free speech law, religious freedom law, church-state relations law, a First Amendment Amicus Brief Clinic, and tort law, at UCLA School of Law, where he has also often taught copyright law, criminal law, and a seminar on firearms regulation policy.

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