AA 1, New Jersey 0

So – Dave Silverman got his godless license plate after all. The New Jersey DMV backed down.

From the press release:

Cranford, NJ—As public backlash was growing, the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission reversed its decision on Wednesday, approving American Atheists President David Silverman’s application for custom license plates reading “ATHE1ST.”  American Atheists, which celebrates its 50th anniversary this year, is a national non-profit dedicated to fighting discrimination against atheists.

On Monday, Silverman received a rejection email from the Commission concerning his application. It stated, “Reason for denial: Objectionable or Need Clarification.” When Silverman called to offer this clarification, he was told by a Commission official that his proposed plates were “offensive.”

“There was absolutely no reason that this plate should be denied; this is outrageously discriminatory,” said David Silverman. “There is nothing offensive about atheism or atheists. The state of New Jersey had no right to deem this ‘offensive’ as though it was their place to do so.”

Per Commission procedure, Silverman submitted a letter of appeal. Word quickly spread through social media, and traditional media quickly picked up on the story. A PDF of Silverman’s appeal letter, and the rejection email, are available here:


A reporter early Wednesday afternoon contacted Silverman to tell him that his application had been approved, and soon afterward a spokesperson from the Commission called to confirm it.

Once he receives the plates, Silverman plans to bring one with him to American Atheists’ 2014 National Convention in Salt Lake City, where American Atheists members will be able to take pictures with it.

Yeah the state of New Jersey isn’t the authority I would turn to for a decision on what is or isn’t offensive.


  1. Robert B. says

    Or to look at it another way, it takes way more than a little thing like that to offend us Jersey people.

  2. R Johnston says


    I think it’s more that Jersey people enjoy being offended. Why else elect a governor whose sole qualification for office is that he’s a spectacularly offensive asshole?

  3. believerskeptic says

    I think it’s appalling that anyone would find a declaration of atheism to be “offensive” per se at all.

  4. Acolyte of Sagan says

    An excellent result for sure, but I do have a question. Considering the current news about information leaks in high places, how does a reporter beat an official from the Commission to inform Silverman of his success?

  5. carlie says

    And he wasn’t saying he was an atheist! He was an atheonest! Very different.

    I hate it when it’s obvious that the only way to make a person or agency do what’s right is to bring the full force of media scrutiny on them. 🙁

  6. says

    In the 80s, my (now-)husband worked in artificial intelligence and applied for the license plate “AI FREAK”. The California DMV turned it down as offensive. Huh? Okay, AI can stand for artificial insemination, but still — offensive?

  7. grumpyoldfart says

    Think of the people who haven’t got Silverman’s clout. They are probably getting license plates knocked back every day by ‘offended’ counter-jockeys determined to use what little power they’ve got.

  8. Pieter B, FCD says

    If I had that plate, I’d put it on a car I didn’t care much about. Vandalism is pretty much inevitable, I’m afraid.

  9. rnilsson says

    1 Robert B.

    August 28, 2013 at 10:25 pm (UTC -7) Link to this comment

    Or to look at it another way, it takes way more than a little thing like that to offend us Jersey people.

    Ah, but see, it’s such an Ev1l L1ttle Th1ng!


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