Is a NO GODS License Plate Offensive? June 30, 2009

Is a NO GODS License Plate Offensive?

Jason lives in Indiana, home of the “In God We Trust” license plates.

He applied for a personalized license plate reading NO GODS. Take a wild guess what happened…


Why? It was deemed inappropriate. According to the Bureau of Motor Vehicles:

Personalized license plates allow creativity; however, under Indiana Statue IC 9-18-15-4 (b) the BMV may refuse to issue a combination of letters or numerals, or both, that carry a connotation offensive to good taste and decency.

The BMV will deny a personalized license plate request if an objective, reasonable person would find that the customer’s proposed expression on the personalized license plate application is determined to carry a connotation offensive to good taste and decency, is misleading, or is otherwise prohibited.

Of course, some atheists could say “objective, reasonable” people wouldn’t believe in a god in the first place 🙂

But the dilemma is clear: Is simply saying NO GODS offensive? The BMV says yes. Jason says no.

He’s already contacted the ACLU in Indiana and FFRF. Sounds like he has a case, no?

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  • Thanks for posting this, Hemant. Some good news already – a friend of a friend of a friend posted my story to reddit and I’ve discovered another Indiana resident fighting a similar fight with the BMV, in his case for a GODLESS plate. He’s already in contact with the ACLU-IN and we’re going to try and pool our resources and work together if possible. I’ll make sure to post updates to my blog and keep you in the loop as well.

  • This should be good… How can they allow “In God We Trust” on the plates and at the same time deny “NO GODS”. If the implication of a religious viewpoint in one direction is denied, how can one in the other direction be allowed? They either need to allow his, or take the other off.

  • Try ATHEIST…you can say it is A THEIST …

    I would suggest putting a “NO” in place of “In” God We Trust. No God We Trust.

  • MaleficVTwin

    Please keep us updated on this, Hemant. 🙂

  • David D.G.

    Oh, man, I would love to be the ACLU lawyer who gets to argue this case. As long as he doesn’t have to deal with a hyper-Christian judge/jury (and there are legitimate ways to avoid having them), it should be an easy win.

    ~David D.G.

  • Mike

    Maybe some of find the “In God We Trust” slogan offensive?

  • Yet another dose of Christian hypocrisy… Of course it’s not offensive, and indeed, being a personal statement rather than one of the state, ultimately less offensive than the “In God We Trust” on plates.

  • Andrew C.

    What sends me into a rage about these license plates is that they cost the same as the normal plates. One of the rules for specialty plates in Indiana is that there is an extra fee to get them. Usually it’s because the money goes to a charitable cause or an organization.

    Why do I have to pay extra for my Abraham Lincoln plate and the Christians get theirs for cheaper?

  • Tarrkid

    I think I posted this before, but since we’re talking about Indiana and its plates…

    Since I got a specialty plate (environment), I didn’t have to get asked which plate I wanted, but I was right next to someone else getting a plate, and overheard the following. The tone was unmistakable…

    BMV Employee: (sweetly) Would you like an “In God We Trust” plate, or (ominously) the *regular* one.

    It was PAINFULLY clear that the employee was intimating that the “IGWT” plate was the CORRECT answer.

  • Matto the Hun

    Here I Georgia, I’ve seen a a good number of “God” vanity plates. Permutations of “Jesus” or “I love Jesus, or “I Believe” (wow, what a bold stance, fight on christian soldier, way to fight the man.) Obviously these were some sort of plate friendly abbreviation.

    I don’t know, but I think it is a safe assumption that there is the same sort of thing in Indiana.

    Given that, I would say the case ought to be rock friggin’ solid.

  • Ugh. I live in Indiana, and I am so thankful that the car I am sharing right now has the “godless” regular plate, haha.

    It irks me that the “IGWT” plates cost the same as the normal plates, and the hypocrisy described in this situation is also truly breathtaking.

    I hope that Jason is successful (for the sake of my sanity and that of many other Hoosiers).

  • Reginald Selkirk

    Sounds like a good basis for a lawsuit to me, should be able to get the “In God We Trust” plates thrown out.

    It might not be the ACLU who helps out, though. They historically prefer to find theist plaintiffs, for marketing reasons. That way they can defuse the frequent comments that they are anti-Christian.

    I would try FFRF and American Atheists.

  • We must be prepared for a HUGE movement from the “religious right”. They believe they have lost a war, because Obama is not our president, and they will be coming out swinging to take back their Christian country from the devil-worshiping, homo-loving, god-hating, baby-killers that have taken over the world.

    I expect more shootings, more violence, more power, much like the power from the Mormons, who put millions of dollars into getting legal marriage illegal, for gays.

  • Delphine

    I’ve always found “in god we trust” offensive. I’ve also always found the giant billboard on my way home “Jesus is the ONLY way to heaven” offensive too (as I’m sure many other religious folks from other religion feel). Neither of these slogans are going away any time soon. BMV is dangerously close to discrimination and combining church and state.

  • Reckless

    While I would not consider NO GODS to be offensive, there are religious nutters out there who would, and I’d hate for that driver to be the victim of a crazy theist’s road rage due to their license plate.

  • Brandon

    I live in Indiana and insisted on the “godless” plate. However, my plate number is 69 5EX, which I did not specially request. I find it very offensive. 🙂

  • Wouldn’t “In God We Trust” license plates go against the whole separation of church and state bit? I think I’d fight that point over the “No God” plate, but then again I find personal plates annoying (mostly because anything I would want to have would be “in bad taste” LOL).

  • Josh

    At least Colorado’s ILVTOFU was a double entendre…

  • Hey You

    Florida has an “In God We Trust” license plate option too, which I detest… I much prefer the ole “Sunshine State” and county-name ones.

  • cassiek

    I hope Jason succeeds with his challenge to the BMV. I live in Indiana as well, and find those ridiculous “god” plates offensive every time I see one.

  • Sue DeNimme

    Count me as another Indiana resident who resents the fact that theists get to express their religious views on their license plates for no extra money and I don’t.

    As an aside, I’ve observed that when my husband and I are out driving and see someone doing something boneheaded, nine times out of ten they have a “God plate”. Which may be a case of confirmation bias due to the popularity of these plates, but it does seem that a lot of these people drive as if they expect a giant hand to come out of the sky and save them from their own stupidity.

  • Andrew

    There is a woman in my development who’s Rav 4 lisence plate is WWJD50. I find this highly offensive because clearly Jesus would buy American!

  • Bill

    Here in Mississippi “GOD” often appears in personalized license plates. I’ve only been here a year, and I don’t recall seeing other states allowing things like “GOD” in the plate. My maternal grandfather (whose last name was “Ewers,” pronounced like “yours”) was denied a personal plate of UP EWERS. In the same state a friend of mine, however, had randomly assigned license plate of WAR 666.

    I’ve considered applying for a NO GODS or GODLESS plate here in Mississippi, but morality is a foreign concept for too many Christians and I don’t wish to have my property vandalized.

  • If for some reason he loses he should get a plate that says, “DOG ON” and a license plate frame that says, “Read it Backwards!”.

  • Tony

    Can you get one that says “In Gold We Trust”?

  • Betsy

    I hope this does get fought. It’s ridiculous. I didn’t have a problem in Ohio getting GDLSS on my motorcycle. But after living in Indiana for a couple years, this doesn’t surprise me somehow.

  • Go get ’em Jason! Tear them a new one! They haven’t a legal leg to stand on. Make them admit it. This is another case of poor undereducated fools confusing “decency” with “Christianity”. We have to educate them.

  • J. Burke

    It’s not merely a question of whether someone might consider Jason’s plate to be offensive; it’s whether this offense is the response of a reasonable, objective person–i.e., if that offense is objective and based on reason. The language of the regulation makes this clear. The onus is on the BMV, I think, to show WHY offense to Jason’s plate is reasonable; and appeals to the Christian majority in the state won’t cut it, unless we assume by default their beliefs are reasonable and objective.

  • My only worry is that owners of such cars will find them defaced by supposedly superior people of faith.

  • Last Hussar

    How would ‘In Allah we Trust’ go down? After all it is the *same* god!

  • Amy

    My 10 year old was reading over my shoulder and said it was offensive. I didn’t tell her whether I thought she was wrong or right, but pointed out that the same state has license plate that says “In God We Trust”.

    She said that was offensive too.

  • Zered

    We live in Ohio and I see the offensive “in god we trust” plates almost every day. I would love to see one that reads “NO GODS” on the “In God We Trust” plate!

  • Well, you can’t get a NO GODS license in Virginia. But that’s only because I already have it.

    We should get an atheist license plate club together to connect with those of us across the country.

  • Doug

    I live in Indiana I think the “god” plate is such a load of crap. One thing I like to do is try to look for the regular plates. I know those people made a choice not to pick the “god” plate just like me.

  • Zach

    I just got denied having a No God license plate here in Alaska, I emailed the dmv about it and contacted my local ACLU, just waiting to hear back from both of them to see what I can do about it. I could have gotten YayGod, LuvGod, OneGod though….but they had already all been issued. Yay for hypocrisy.

  • Steve

    I have had my Florida vanity tag “ATHEIST” for 24 years now. Out of the blue 8 years ago I got a recall letter from the DMV because my tag was deemed “offensive” because of a letter sent to them by 4 people. I did not return my tag because I was determined to fight for it. After a few months an article about this appeared in a Tampa newspaper and my dilemma spread through the media throughout the US. I even got a call from an ACLU lawyer in Washington DC. I got a call to appear on Good Morning America. The result of all this publicity was a call from the DMV followed up with a letter rescinding their revocation of my “ATHEIST” tag.

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