Kentucky Atheist Awarded $150,000 In Fight Over Vanity License Plates
If you’re looking for God, keep your eyes peeled for a white Jeep Grand Cherokee with custom Kentucky plates that read “IM GOD.”
You may not find the Almighty behind the wheel, but you’re likely at least to encounter Ben Hart. The self-identified atheist sued the state in 2016 after he was denied the vanity plate because it was “vulgar or obscene.”
A U.S. District Court ruled in Hart’s favor last November. Last week, the court also ordered the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet to pay $150,000 in attorney’s fees and litigation costs to the American Civil Liberties Union and the Freedom From Religion Foundation, the groups that backed the three-year suit.
Hart told Kentucky’s FOX19 he hopes his plates raise awareness that religious beliefs are open to individual interpretation. As for the specific claim made on the plates, he has an answer for that, too:
“I can prove I’m God. You can’t prove I’m not. Now, how can I prove I’m God? Well, there are six definitions for God in the American Heritage Dictionary, and number five is a very handsome man, and my wife says I’m a very handsome man, and nobody argues with my wife.”
The court ruled in Hart’s favor as a matter of free speech, noting Kentucky has previously approved pro-religious plates like “IM4GOD,” “ASKGOD,” GR8GOD,” and “LUVGOD.” As for the issue of vulgarity, the state also previously signed off on plates reading “BOOGR” and “FATA55,” effectively undercutting that argument.
Hart had similar plates on his car when he lived in Ohio, where they were approved without issue.
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