New Jersey bans ‘ATHEIST’ vanity plate, calls it ‘offensive’

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Update: As public backlash was growing, the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission reversed its decision on Wednesday, approving American Atheists President David Silverman’s application for custom license plates reading “ATHE1ST.”  American Atheists, which celebrates its 50th anniversary this year, is a national non-profit dedicated to fighting discrimination against atheists.

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The New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission has rejected an application for a personalized license plate that says “ATHE1ST” – even though the word is not on the state’s list of offensive and prohibited terms.


New Jersey resident David Silverman, president of the group American Atheists, was willing to pay for a personalized license plate that reflects his views on religion. In the state of New Jersey, it costs $50 to acquire a customized license plate. But the MVC rejected his application, claiming that the word “atheist” is offensive, Silverman tweeted after the incident.

Earlier this year, the New Jersey Star-Ledger published the list of words that the MVC refuses to print on license plates. But the list, which has a total of 1,085 words and is dated Nov. 26, 2012, does not include the word atheist.

MVC spokesman Mike Horan told the paper that personalized license plate applications are evaluated on a case-by-case basis, especially since new slang words are continuously arising.

Written By: RT News
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  1. In a sense the bureau is correct. They are concerned:

    1. will anyone vandalise the plate/car?
    2. will anyone get upset seeing it driving and have an accident
    3. will anyone report it to the police

    My guess is you will find even mildly controversial words are banned.

    • In reply to #4 by Steven Mading:

      Presumably it’s spelled with a digit “1″ instead of a letter “I” because someone else already took the correct spelling “ATHEIST”…. so what’s the problem then?

      My guess is that the person with that plate lives in a state with less Roman Catholics.

    • In reply to #4 by Steven Mading: and IDLERACER and Steve Mading

      Presumably it’s spelled with a digit “1″ instead of a letter “I” because someone else already took the correct spelling “ATHEIST”…. so what’s the problem then?

      Like UK licence plates you can’t just pick a word and ask, it has to fit into the formula of; some letters, some numbers followed by some letters. The licence plate K1 LT was issued but if there wasn’t a space between the number and the next letter string the owner would get a ticket.

      Unlike the UK, and rather perversely, each state issues it’s own licence plates AND FUCKING driving licences!!! So if you move from NJ to NY you have a driving test to look forward to. Having said that the tests are ridiculously easy to prevent failure and loss of a fundamental american right – driving.

      It’s funny how State powers lower the standard of driving but not very clever.

  2. If I were the clerk, I would have a problem with that name “ATHE1ST” because people would read it as “ATHEIST” and give the ticket to the wrong guy.

    I think the computer should not issue a plate that differed only in O/0 or I/1. Reports from the street should refer to the same number.

  3. I guess it’s true what they say: the mere existence of atheists makes some people offended. You don’t have to say anything about religion, just announce your existence, and some people can’t take it.

  4. Like UK licence plates you can’t just pick a word and ask, it has to fit into the formula of; some letters, some numbers followed by some letters. The licence plate K1 LT was issued but if there wasn’t a space between the number and the next letter string the owner would get a ticket.

    Could I suggest this one for the clerks involved:-

    B 1 GOT

    Never mind! David Silverman will have to make do with a Darwin Fish , and maybe a FSM badge.

  5. Christians go around with all manner of bumper stickers (Some of them downright provocative ) and personalized plates and atheists don’t turn a hair.However we atheists have to carefully consider whether ‘making a statement’ is worth the grief of vandalized vehicles. Says a lot about the religious animal.

  6. Congrats Dave, on the reversed decision; social media got your back and you’re ready to roll. Alas, be careful…

    David Silverman may not be a household name to some; he quietly works his magic from other fronts.
    A while back he was on ‘Bill O’Reilly’ (thankless job) – Dave panzer tanked him.

  7. Saying that “ATHE1ST” or “ATHEIST” is offensive is one of the most offensive things anyone could do.
    Imagine the uproar if a government official decided the number plate “JUDA1SM” was offensive.
    I’d like to see someone apply for the number plate “SATAN1ST”. Actually it might be easier than “ATHE1ST”.

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