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Shannon Morgan, New Jersey woman, sues over '8THEIST' license plate

New Jersey Woman Sues Over '8THEIST' License Plate

NEWARK, N.J. (AP) - A New Jersey woman who says she was denied a license plate referencing atheism filed suit this week, claiming her online application was rejected because it was deemed potentially offensive.

Shannon Morgan, of Maurice Township, said in a federal lawsuit filed Thursday that the Motor Vehicle Commission violated her First Amendment rights when its website rejected the plate reading "8THEIST." She said she received a message stating that her vanity plate request was ineligible as it "may carry connotations offensive to good taste and decency."

Morgan then filled out the online application using the phrase "BAPTIST" as a test, which the website accepted. Morgan claims in her lawsuit that she sent the agency a letter of complaint by registered mail and made several attempts to contact them by phone, all of which went unanswered.

Messages and emails left for the Motor Vehicle Commission by The Associated Press on Friday were not returned. A recorded message said the offices were closed in observance of Good Friday.

New Jersey previously, after a brief flap, approved a request from an atheist group's president for a license plate that read "ATH1EST," with the number one in place of the letter "i."

Ayesha N. Khan, the legal director of Americans United for the Separation of Church and State, a Washington D.C.-based advocacy group representing Morgan, said the fact this has happened at least twice in New Jersey shows the problem has not been fixed.

The Motor Vehicle Commission is "disfavoring atheist plates and not fixing the system. Whatever Internet glitch there might be cannot be the explanation this time," Khan said, adding that they were seeking the enactment of new agency regulations that include "objective, viewpoint-neutral criteria for issuing a plate."

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dparker317 April 18 2014 at 4:52 PM

skippafreckle said "I find that people who believe in nothing feel that they can do or say anything they want because they answer to no one but themselves."

Then again, people who are fanatical about what they believe in fail to recognize the validity of anyone else's point of view.

The USA allows its citizens to believe or not believe in whatever religion they wish, whether it offends anyone else or not. Putting the word "Baptist" or the word on "8theist" on a vanity plate is an expression of free speech.

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rdz69 April 18 2014 at 4:57 PM

give it to her-who cares???

Flag Reply +10 rate up
m.bonham April 18 2014 at 5:01 PM

Wow. These comments are frightening. You should be able to get atheist or 8theist on your car and no one should say otherwise. Atheist is not offensive nor is it some secret vendetta word used against people of religion. Its just a label for people who dont beleive in a god. *bible thumpers might want to sit down for this one* Not everyone has to have the same beleifs as you do. Seriously, grow up. And go ahead and condem me to hell if you want, ill send you a postcard.

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2 replies
Darrell m.bonham April 18 2014 at 5:06 PM

Have you stopped to consider that she asked for that version because ATHEIST was already taken? Also, she's not going to get a plate that could potentially be read as 8TH HEIST. People are frightening... aren't you.

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boglere m.bonham April 18 2014 at 5:12 PM

Driving here in the Bible Belt of the deep South, a tag with the subject words will get unwanted attention on the road, and yes, even road rage. A lotta folks down here drive around well armed.

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1 reply
m.bonham boglere April 18 2014 at 5:29 PM

That sucks. You should never feel threatened for your beleif or lack of.

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nc770 April 18 2014 at 5:06 PM

As a religious man I think it's important to let others express the fact that they are not. "ATHEIST" should not be considered offensive as I don't think my tag "ZIONIST" on my Harley should offend. Actually, this morning I got a "I love it" from a preacher.

Flag Reply +3 rate up
lthrnck68 April 18 2014 at 5:06 PM

Once again we have an example of governmental p.c. Better not let anyone put milk on their plates. You might offend the lactose intolerant.

Flag Reply +3 rate up
msvanderson April 18 2014 at 5:10 PM

Why is everything made into Black and White?

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Susie April 18 2014 at 5:15 PM

Octotheist would work as well; for those who don't like to think of there being no god, eight should be great!

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1 reply
jmg429 Susie April 18 2014 at 5:20 PM

There's no Peter Pan either. Why aren't groups united to hate Peter Pan?

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1 reply
Susie jmg429 April 18 2014 at 5:28 PM

IKR...Atheism (there is no organized group) means without god, not anti-god. That's a point of literacy.
How do you hate something that is not there?

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ctmale6385 April 18 2014 at 5:18 PM

This is absolutely nuts. On the one hand states will go to the Supreme Court to block any Christian religious symbol from being displayed at public buildings at Christmas time, not wanting to offend atheists and other religions, yet on the other hand, the DMV proclainms the word athiest to be offensive. Make up your mind New Jersey, you can't have it both ways.

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1 reply
steelebook ctmale6385 April 18 2014 at 5:53 PM

Let's hope the DMV also proclaims (as well was "proclainming") the word "athiest" to be a misspelling. . ,

Flag Reply 0 rate up
Soul Gates April 18 2014 at 5:23 PM

Even though I disagree with her views, I support her right to say them -- even on a license plate. NJ just stepped in it ...

Flag Reply +7 rate up
Kathleen April 18 2014 at 5:24 PM

She should be allowed to have it.

Flag Reply +5 rate up
1 reply
deusnonestsorry Kathleen April 18 2014 at 5:36 PM

Where do you draw the line what is offensive to others? What if a rapper who frequently uses the N-word wanted to make that his plate? Should he be allowed, because he is comfortable with that word, or should they consider the possible millions whom it would offend?

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