Magazine article Church & State

With AU's Help, N.J. Woman's Lawsuit over License Plate Advances

Magazine article Church & State

With AU's Help, N.J. Woman's Lawsuit over License Plate Advances

Article excerpt

A New Jersey woman who was denied a vanity license plate that reads "8THEIST" may proceed with her lawsuit, a federal court ruled recently.

In a suit filed by Americans United in April 2014 on behalf of Leesburg, N.J., resident Shannon Morgan, AU said the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission demeaned atheists, like Morgan, and favored religion over non-belief when it rejected the specialized plate.

The case began in November of 2013 when Morgan attempted to register for an "8THEIST" plate on the Motor Vehicle Commission's website, only to have it rejected because the phrase was deemed "objectionable." She then entered "BAPTIST" as a proposed plate in the commission website, and that plate was deemed permissible.

Morgan contacted the commission for assistance with registering her "8THEIST" plate and was told by an employee that it was unknown why her request had been denied. Other attempts made by Morgan to get approval for her plate were ignored, leading AU to file suit on her behalf. (See "License to Discriminate?" June 2014 Church & State.)

New Jersey officials attempted unsuccessfully to have the case dismissed, but U.S. District Judge Freda L. Wolfson ruled May 12 that the legal matter may proceed.

"The Court finds that Plaintiff's factual allegations are sufficient to establish an injury-in-fact for the purposes of this motion to dismiss," declared Wolfson.

WWOR-TV, a Fox affiliate in Secaucus, reported recently that officials claim Morgan's rejected plate was due to a computer error rather than discrimination and that they later offered to let her have the "8THEIST" plate. …

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