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Aug 27 2013

New Jersey: defender of good taste

Would you believe New Jersey denied David Silverman his choice of license plates?

My vanity "ATHEIST" license plate was just refused by the state. Reason: It’s offensive. #wronganswer

So just the word “atheist” is regarded as offensive in New Jersey? Who did they ask, Snooki?

35 comments

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  1. 1
    birgerjohansson

    But they don’t mind being associated with the mob…
    Or is the mob really a symbol for the church?

  2. 2
    birgerjohansson

    And technically, anyone who does not worship the local default god is an atheist.

  3. 3
    jamessweet

    In NYS, they seem to filter out pretty much any overtly religious custom license plates, as far as I can tell. Dunno if it’s the same in NJ.

    If they would also ban CHRISTIAN or JESUS or whatever, then I don’t see a problem with it. If there really is a double-standard, though, then of course that’s awful.

  4. 4
    chigau (違う)

    Would they deny Odin or Aphrodite?

  5. 5
    Alverant

    AFAIK what’s “offensive” for license plates is determined on an individual basis and not a strict set of standards. Someone else might have approved it. It still seems fishy. I suspect whoever got this was devout and didn’t like the idea of non-christians publicly announcing their beliefs.

  6. 6
    ludicrous

    That is a bit harsh if it’s their first time. Maybe warm them up a bit with agnostic or secular. If they don’t have a dictionary it might slip by.

  7. 7
    David Marjanović

    How many letters is it allowed to have? FLSPMSTR?

  8. 8
    doublereed

    Yea, they didn’t let me have the vanity plate “FAGOTT” for some reason. We bassoonists have to deal with the same shit.

  9. 9
    Rey Fox

    What the hell? It’s just a heavy metal band.

    Just get them to squeeze in a little space between the “A” and the “T”. A THEIST.

  10. 10
    consciousness razor

    If they would also ban CHRISTIAN or JESUS or whatever, then I don’t see a problem with it. If there really is a double-standard, though, then of course that’s awful.

    I don’t see a problem with not banning them. Isn’t bannination the sort of thing that generally needs a good reason, not the other way around? I suppose you could say a double-standard would be mildly awful (what else should I say here, other than “vanity plates”?), but it can’t be much more awful than making up completely arbitrary restrictions for no particular reason.

    Also, the examples you gave are people’s names. (Mohammed too of course, but not so much “God,” “Yahweh,” etc., not that it matters.) If I were named any of those and cared about vanity plates, I’d totally want to get it before some silly godbotherer did. But there’s no reason why people shouldn’t be able to have a generic religious message if they want it. I mean, I could see why they wouldn’t make plates saying “Kill4God” or “FuckGod” or some shit like that, but beyond that it’s getting pretty ridiculous.

  11. 11
    consciousness razor

    Yea, they didn’t let me have the vanity plate “FAGOTT” for some reason. We bassoonists have to deal with the same shit.

    What about, like, BSNACE1 or something? Already taken?

  12. 12
    UnknownEric the Apostate

    It was all a misunderstanding. New Jersey thought David was expressing his disbelief in Bruce Springsteen.

  13. 13
    Sunday Afternoon

    Clearly it was offensive that David Silverman was copying David Smalley of Dogma Debate who has the Texas “ATHEIST” plates.

    (Ob grumble: when will the iTunes podcast Dogma Debate feed refresh after the Spreaker/iHeartRadio thing happened???)

  14. 14
    Sunday Afternoon

    Wow, there’s even a picture online: http://www.reddit.com/comments/1kkvo6

  15. 15
    whheydt

    Reminds me of what happened to a friend of my daughter….

    A neighbor was caught prying a Darwin Fish off the back of her car after the emblem had going missing several time before and been replaced. Since the action damaged the paint on the car, she took the miscreant to Small Claims Court. The judge was ready to toss it as trivial when she said, “First Amendment issue.” At that point, the judge sat up and took notice and would up finding completely for the plaintiff.

  16. 16
    left0ver1under

    This isn’t the first time that a DMV has tried to ban a plate saying “atheist”. Remember Steven Miles of Florida, his fight with that state’s DMV in 2002? Scroll down the page for the story.

    http://www.sptimes.com/2002/03/15/TampaBay/ATHEIST_tag_wins_repr.shtml

    There will always be people testing the limits of what they can get away with on a license plate.

    Some are innocent:

    http://takemypaycheck.com/wp-content/uploads//2012/04/Doctor-Who-License-Plate1-600×300.jpg

    Others, not so much:

    http://www.manbottle.com/pictures/assorgy.jpg

    http://www.coolpl8z.com/pl8z/final/coolpl8z_blowme.jpg

  17. 17
    Randomfactor

    I liked this one:

    http://wp.patheos.com.s3.amazonaws.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/files/2012/04/ala-atheist-1024×531.jpg

    Bet New Jersey wouldn’t have had a problem approving those six letters.

  18. 18
    Silva

    When I lived in NJ, I had a friend who got rejected for the license plate ELOHIM. She appealed and won. I think she said she made the case that it was an element of Hebrew heritage, thus turning it into a cultural sensitivity issue.

  19. 19
    jamessweet
    If they would also ban CHRISTIAN or JESUS or whatever, then I don’t see a problem with it. If there really is a double-standard, though, then of course that’s awful.

    I don’t see a problem with not banning them.

    Oh, me neither. I would rather see more leeway rather than less leeway. However, vanity license plates aren’t exactly like a free public forum, so I am okay with (do not necessarily support, but am accepting of) restrictions as long as they are fair and equitable. “Nothing pertaining to religion” is a restriction that I would find acceptable — although if I were on the Committee to Decide What Can Go On License Plates, I would probably oppose such a restriction.

  20. 20
    jamessweet

    AFAIK what’s “offensive” for license plates is determined on an individual basis and not a strict set of standards. Someone else might have approved it.

    Again I can only speak for NYS, but they have a first-layer automated system that seems to screen out anything even vaguely relating to religion. It automatically rejected “GODLESS” when I tried it — though it did say I could have “CODLESS” if I wanted. I was close to getting it, but didn’t want to shell out the extra money :)

  21. 21
    carlie

    I don’t see why vanity plates exist at all. You’ve got your whole car to put stickers and whatnot over to express yourself.

    But I’m also not in favor of any alternate plates at all – they’re for ID purposes, so each state ought to have one single plate easily identifiable to them and that’s it. IT. You ought to be able to tell from a quick glance during a hit and run at least which state the plate is from.

    AND GET OFFA MY LAWN.

  22. 22
    Rey Fox

    I don’t see why vanity plates exist at all.

    Because states have to get money for infrastructure from somewhere, and it can’t be progressive taxation.

    (Anyone have an animated GIF of Principal Skinner rubbing his thumb and forefinger together?)

  23. 23
    Ingdigo Jump

    http://i.imgur.com/Jqiiy.gif

  24. 24
  25. 25
    Forelle

    doublereed at 8:

    We bassoonists

    I’d always pictured you as an oboist.

  26. 26
    otranreg

    Why have a vanity plate anyway? It always looks like a bourgeois twat kind of thing.

  27. 27
    Rey Fox

    Somewhat bourgeois, yes, but not really related to female genitals at all.

    Ingdigo: In two minutes! Thanks. :D

  28. 28
    doublereed

    I’d always pictured you as an oboist.

    How DARE you!

  29. 29
    Forelle

    I’ll go look for some bassoon in Youtube as penance. (Will Rameau do?) Thanks for another instance of this endearing attitude of musicians — that of course they couldn’t conceivably play any other instrument than theirs!, even when they play two or three more. It’s delightful.

    Sorry for the off-topic.

  30. 30
    Pete Newell

    Forelle@29: Nadina Mackie is always worth the attention. Look for youtube dot com slash user slash nadiva.

    Also, too, deep sigh for New Jersey. Again.

  31. 31
    Inaji

    Otranreg:

    Why have a vanity plate anyway? It always looks like a bourgeois twat kind of thing.

    Gee, thanks. I’ll go pry the ’71 Elky plates off my car. By the way, we don’t use gendered insults/slurs here. You’ve been around long enough to know that, but I guess your need to be a compleat asshole overrode your ability to think.

  32. 32
    sbuh

    Just tell them they have it all wrong. It doesn’t say “ATHEIST.” It says “A THEIST.”

  33. 33
    doublereed

    @29

    Did you take the “How dare you” seriously? lol

  34. 34
    Pete Newell

    Wow, I put “bassoon” tags around my post@30 and they either disappeared, or HTML5 is waaaay more advanced than I thought. Alternatively, *that’ll* teach me to read the instructions right below the entry field…

    Back on topic, there’s no real difference between vanity plates and Darwin fish by me, except for the implicit endorsement by the licensing agency. Otherwise, it’s all self-expression.

    I wonder what they’d have done with “Skeptic”. Or “Feminist”. Or “Lutheran” (because if you want to make it easier for the rest of us to avoid you, you go right ahead).

    They’re drawing lines in the wrong places, in New Jersey, I think.

    Let’s hope it was an officious little clerk having a bad day, rather than an obstructionist moron doing business as usual.

  35. 35
    ck

    sbuh wrote:

    Just tell them they have it all wrong. It doesn’t say “ATHEIST.” It says “A THEIST.”

    No, no, no. You’ve got it all wrong. It’s supposed to be “AT HEIST”. He’s promoting armed robbery, a fine New Jersey tradition, maybe?

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