An atheist had his request for a personalised car number plate reading ‘IM GOD’ refused after officials claimed the message was in poor taste.
Benny Hart, of Kentucky, said he wanted the plate in order to spread his belief that it was impossible to disprove anyone’s claim to be God. He had driven around Ohio with the same plate for 12 years, he added.
But the Division of Motor Vehicles in his new home state said the plate would contravene rules on obscene or vulgar messaging, and could even distract other drivers or cause confrontations.
Mr Hart said: “There is nothing obscene or vulgar about my view that religious beliefs are subject to individual interpretation.
“I simply want the same opportunity to select a personal message for my license plate just as any other driver.”
The Kentucky arm of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has since filed a lawsuit to argue for Mr Hart’s rights, alongside the Freedom From Religion Foundation.
Legal director William Sharp said: “Government officials do not have the authority to censor messages simply because they dislike them.
“And in this instance, personalised license plates are a form of individual speech equally deserving of First Amendment protection.
“He has a right to select a personalised plate message that reflects his philosophical views, just as any other driver may select an individual message for their personalised plate.
“Just as others may select religious messages, Mr. Hart, an atheist, has a right to comment on religion.”
According to the ACLU, the officials’ decision was based on a US Supreme Court ruling that said Texas could limit the content of licence plates because they are state property.