A federal judge this week ordered Kentucky to pay an atheist man more than $150,000 in attorneys’ fees after the state denied his request for a personalized license plate reading, “IM GOD.”
Judge Gregory F. Van Tatenhove issued the Feb. 10 decision three months after he declared the state’s action unconstitutional.
The state argued it had a legitimate government interest in “promot[ing] highway safety” by denying the plate because “potentially controversial messages . . . could lead to confrontation or distraction on its highways.”
But in his Nov. 13 ruling, Tatenhove wrote, “Vanity plates are private speech protected by the First Amendment.” The state, he noted, had permitted plates stating “IM4GOD” and “LUVGOD” but denied the request by plaintiff Ben Hart for an “IM GOD” plate. Therefore, he argued, the state’s position was not viewpoint neutral.
“The Commonwealth does not allow drivers to say anything they want with a license plate message,” the judge wrote. “That’s fine, but the First Amendment also imposes limits on the Commonwealth. And in this case … the Commonwealth went too far.”
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Source: Christian Headlines