Ben Hart, an atheist, told WXIX he wants license plates that say “IM GOD.” He told the TV station he wants them as part of his effort to spread his political and philosophical message that faith is susceptible to individualized interpretation. The Freedom from Religion Foundation and later the American Civil Liberties Union of Kentucky responded on Hart’s behalf and argued that Kentucky had violated free speech.
The idea that license plates should be considered personal speech is not universal among atheist organizations, and in some cases changes depending on the message of the plate in question. In 2009, the group Americans United for Separation of Church and State fought to remove “I BELIEVE” as an option for license plates, according to The Telegraph. The same group in 2016 fought to help a driver in New Jersey in his legal battle to get license plates that say 8THEIST according to the group’s website.
It is doubtful Heart’s legal team will use his argument that faith is susceptible to individualized interpretation. Previous court decisions and opinions of the court disagree with Heart’s reasoning. The latest case was decided last week when a federal Judge in D.C. ruled against an effort to remove the rainbow flag from two congressional office buildings. The plaintiffs in that case wanted the flags removed citing a personal belief that the flags were religious in nature. It is more likely his attorneys will argue that license plates constitute free speech of individuals.
If Heart’s Kentucky case were to end up before the Supreme Court, it could open the door to Christians who have been denied Bible verses and other messages for use on license plates.