In 2016, Bennie L. Hart applied for a vanity license plate emblazoned with "IM GOD." The Kentucky Transportation Cabinet refused to issue the plate, apparently because it was related to religion. With the support of the ACLU and the Freedom From Religion Foundation, Hart took the matter to court. And finally, U.S. District Judge Gregory F. Van Tatenhove ruled that the First Amendment limits the state's power to put the kibosh on the plate. From WDRB:
(The judge wrote) that courts have ruled that such plates convey a “personalized message with intrinsic meaning … specific to the owner.” Even the state’s own statute establishing the program describes such plates as consisting of “personal letters or numbers significant to the applicant,” the judge wrote.
Further, the judge wrote, if the cabinet’s permission to use a vanity plate constituted a “stamp of approval” from the state, the government would be “babbling prodigiously” and “saying many unseemly things...."
“If the Transportation Cabinet genuinely wants to avoid controversy on Kentucky’s highways by preventing ‘promotion of any specific faith, religion, or anti-religion’ from appearing on vanity plates,” the judge wrote, “then it should have denied 'IM4GOD', 'ASKGOD', 'GR8GOD', 'LUVGOD'. But it did not," (Van Tatenhove wrote.)
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