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'8THEIST' license plate: Woman sues to get her atheist vanity plate

A New Jersey woman who is an atheist is so hell-bent on getting a vanity license plate that reads “8THEIST,” that she is suing to get it, according to a Wall Street Journal report on Friday – Good Friday, as a matter of fact. Shannon Morgan who resides in Maurice Township filed a federal lawsuit on Thursday. She claims that she was denied a license plate that references atheism.

Woman sues because her request for an 8THEIST vanity plate was rejected
Photo by Scott Paulson

The reason that Morgan was rejected for her proposed license plate with the number and letters spelling out “8theist” was because those reviewing her application thought it was potentially offensive. Many are agreeing that Morgan’s dying need to promote her religious – make that non-religious - beliefs known as a non-believer is quite offensive to people. Yet, this woman has taken her gripe to the federal courts. She believes her First Amendment rights have been trampled on and says it’s the Motor Vehicle Commission that is doing the trampling on her rights.

Specifically, the message the non-believing woman got from the Motor Vehicle Commission says that her request for the vanity plate has been deemed ineligible because her request for “8THEIST” on her publicly visible license plate may carry connotations offensive to good taste and decency. Still hell-bent on getting the public attention she obviously needs to let persons know that she’s allegedly atheist, she thought she was testing the system by filling out an online application to request the approval of a plate reading “BAPTIST.” As Christians and Baptists alike will be happy to know, the “BAPTIST” application was approved.

After seeing that “8THEIST” was refused by the Motor Vehicle Commission and “BAPTIST” was accepted by it, Morgan claims she then sent the office a letter of complaint about the situation by registered mail, according to CBS News. Receiving no response, she said she made several additional attempts to contact the office by phone. Morgan asserts that all of her attempts to communicate with the office were unsuccessful.

Before this “8THEIST” license plate issue, New Jersey was challenged by an atheist group’s president who wanted a license plate that spelled out “ATHEIST.” In that case, the issue was resolved when the number 1 was used in place of the letter “I”: “ATHE1ST.”

The Americans United for the Separation of Church and State – a Washington D.C. advocacy group – is on Morgan’s side of the issue. How many others are going to bat for the non-believer are not known. Incidentally, on Friday, media attempted to contact the Motor Vehicle Commission for its comment on the story. But - wouldn’t you know – it was closed for Good Friday.