Americans United for Separation of Church and State today announced the settlement of a lawsuit that will give a New Jersey resident the right to receive a personalized license plate that reads “8THEIST.”
In April of 2014, Americans United filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey on behalf of Shannon Morgan, a Leesburg, N.J., resident and atheist. Morgan applied for the vanity plate in November of 2013, only to have the application denied because it was deemed “objectionable.”
Morgan, who noted that a plate reading “BAPTIST” was approved, contacted the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission for assistance but was rebuffed. Attempts by Americans United to resolve the matter outside of court failed, leading to the litigation.
Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United, said he is pleased that the case has been successfully resolved.
“All Shannon Morgan ever wanted was for the state of New Jersey to stop disparaging her non-belief and cease treating her like a second-class citizen,” said Lynn. “The lesson of this case is simple: The government should treat believers and non-believers equally.”
Under the terms of the settlement in Morgan v. Martinez, Morgan will receive the specialty plate within 60 days after she pays the fee for it. In addition, the state is barred from refusing a variety of other specialty plates that touch on themes such as non-belief, LGBT rights and feminism.
Americans United is a religious liberty watchdog group based in Washington, D.C. Founded in 1947, the organization educates Americans about the importance of church-state separation in safeguarding religious freedom.