Updated 04:38 AM EDT, Thu, Oct 28, 2021

New Jersey Woman Sues State Motor Vehicle Commission After Being Denied '8THEIST' License Plate

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A New Jersey woman is suing the state Motor Vehicle Commission for allegedly discriminating against her atheist beliefs.  According to Shannon Morgan of Cumberland County, she was denied a request to customize her license plate to say "8THEIST," which she claims is a violation of her First Amendment rights.

Morgan, who lives in Maurice Township, N.J, filed a lawsuit in federal court on Thursday explaining that she could not personalize her license plate online to read "8THEIST," but the website allowed her to use the word "BAPTIST," reports Gawker.

"There is nothing offensive about being atheist," Morgan said, according to NJ.com. "I should be able to express my sincerely held beliefs with a license plate just like everyone else."

Rev. Barry W. Lynn, the Executive Director of the religious liberty watchdog group Americans United for Separation of Church and State, spoke out on Morgan's behalf saying, "The state of New Jersey is favoring religion while disparaging non-belief. This license plate issue may seem like a small matter but it is indicative of a much larger problem - atheists are often treated by the government as second-class citizens."

Morgan's lawsuit states that "she believes that the commission's decision to deny her a plate that reads '8THEIST' but to allow her one that reads 'BAPTIST' expresses a preference for theistic religious belief over non-theistic belief."

The suit also states that Morgan did not receive a response when she attempted to contact the state Motor Vehicle Commission in November and March.

"We review every request personally ... and we review them for anything that's offensive of objectionable," said Sandy Grossman, a spokesperson for the Motor Vehicle Commission, who added that atheist-themed license plates have been issued in the past.

"We have no objection and continue to issue plates with these types of configurations," Grossman said.

In addition to getting a "8THEIST" as a license plate, Morgan is requesting that the commission adopts objective and viewpoint-neutral criteria for license plate denial and reimbursement for her attorney fees.

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