If you reside in New Jersey, and the idea of Jesus taking the wheel makes you uncomfortable, you may now legally express your discomfort via a vanity license plate.
After a two-year legal struggle, the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission settled out of court this month with Shannon Morgan of Leesburg, N.J., granting Morgan the right to apply for a vanity plate reading “8THEIST,” a reference to Morgan’s lack of faith in a divine power, not a suggestion that her car contains eight theists.
According to the settlement agreement, other now-acceptable vanity plates in the state of New Jersey include “GODLESS,” “HEATHEN,” “HERETIC,” “BLASFMR,” “QUEER,” and “GAYPOWR.” “POWRGAY” is presumably also available, though New Jersey makes it difficult to check. (And if you're wondering, GAY4CHRISTIE is too big.)
Morgan first applied for the plate in November 2013, but the Commission denied her request on the grounds that the plate “may carry connotations offensive to good taste and decency,” court records show.
Morgan then applied for a plate reading “BAPTIST,” which was approved in short order, Richard Katskee, the legal director for Americans United for Separation of Church and State, told The New York Times. Katskee’s group sued the Commission on behalf of Morgan in 2014.
The state attempted to have the suit dismissed, but a federal judge ruled in 2015 that the suit could proceed.
"The state of New Jersey is favoring religion while disparaging nonbelief," the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, the group’s executive director, told CNN.
Although the settlement agreement is not an admission of fault by the Commission, Mairin Bellack, a New Jersey Motor Vehicles Commission spokeswoman, told the Times that the Commission’s initial rejection of Morgan’s plate was an “oversight.” Still, as part of the settlement agreement, the Commission will pay Morgan’s legal fees—a whopping $75,000.
While she may finally have her license plate, Morgan says her worries aren’t over. “I am almost hesitant to display my tag,” she told the Times after she says she received threats to vandalize her car on social media. “I cannot wrap my brain around the thought that anyone would vandalize a vehicle simply because they do not share the driver’s belief system."
If she can wrap her brain around a fundamentally uncaring universe devoid of a benevolent creator, she should be able to wrap her brain around some jerks vandalizing her car, but who are we to judge?