January 2020 Church & State Magazine | AU Bulletin

After a three-year legal fight, a Kentucky man has won the right to receive a personalized license plate reading “IM GOD.”

Bennie Hart, a retired postal worker in Kenton County, first applied for the plate in 2016 but was denied, reported the Lexington Herald-Leader. Officials at Kentucky’s Motor Vehicle Licensing Transportation Cabinet said the phrase was “obscene or vulgar” as well as “not in good taste and would create the potential of distraction to other drivers and possibly confrontations.”

Hart countered in the Hart v. Thomas case that he should have the right to express his views on his plate. He was represented by the American Civil Liberties Union of Kentucky and the Freedom From Religion Foundation. In court, his attorneys noted that the state had approved other plates that reference God, among them “GODLVS,” “TRYGOD,” “1GOD” and “NOGOD.”

U.S. District Judge Gregory Van Tatenhove in November ruled in Hart’s favor, stating that while there are limits on what personalized license plates can say, “the First Amendment also imposes limits on the commonwealth.”