June 2023 Church & State Magazine - June 2023

Miss. license plates no longer include ‘In God We Trust’ motto

 

License plates in Mississippi no longer include the phrase “In God We Trust,” thanks in part to a lawsuit filed by American Atheists.

In 2019, Mississippi license plates began featuring an image of the official state seal which includes the phrase “In God We Trust.” The only way to avoid having the religious motto on a plate was to buy a specialty plate, which cost extra fees. For the owners of motorcycles and trailers, the only option was the standard plate. 

In 2021, American Atheists sued on behalf of three state residents. At the time, Gov. Tate Reeves (R) issued a tweet insisting, “I know Mississippi’s values are our strength … and I meant it when I said as Governor I would defend our values every single day! I will defend ‘In God We Trust’ on our tag, on our flag, and on our state seal …. Every. Single. Day.”

A federal judge later issued a decision holding that the plate was acceptable because residents who were offended by it could use stickers or tape to cover up the phrase. 

American Atheists announced plans to appeal, but now that may not be necessary. The state’s new default plate contains a magnolia flower instead of the state seal. The design was chosen after a contest open to state residents. 

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