Humanist Legal Center Seeks God-Free Mississippi License Plates
For Immediate Release
Sarah Henry, firstname.lastname@example.org, (202) 238-9088 ext. 105
(Washington, D.C., April 4, 2019) – The American Humanist Association’s legal center is demanding that Mississippi state officials make license plates without “In God We Trust” available to motorists at no additional cost. A new state statute makes “In God We Trust” the default license plate. To avoid publicly displaying this religious phrase, vehicle owners are forced to purchase a secular plate at a higher cost.
“Mississippi’s law violates the First Amendment rights of atheists in accordance with firmly settled Supreme Court precedent,” explained Monica Miller, American Humanist Association senior counsel. “The Supreme Court has made clear that the state cannot force motorists to display an ideological message they deem unacceptable on their license plates,” Miller added.
Today’s letter notes that “[b]eyond violating the Free Speech rights of nontheistic Mississippians, compelling such citizens to display ‘In God We Trust’ or pay a penalty contravenes the Religion Clauses of the First Amendment.”
The American Humanist Association sent a letter to Governor Bryant at the May, 2018 announcement of this plan, objecting to the new standard. As of January of this year, the standard license plate is now emblazoned with “In God We Trust.” The national advocacy organization is asking for written assurances from state officials that “steps will be taken so that Mississippi drivers can, without paying any additional charge, display a state-issued license plate that does not make a theistic affirmation.”
“The state is forcing our Mississippi members and other nontheists to falsely publicize a belief in a god, or pay a fee not required of the faithful” noted AHA Executive Director Roy Speckhardt. “This is a clear violation of their right to free speech.”
The American Humanist Association (AHA) works to protect the rights of humanists, atheists, and other nontheistic Americans, including hundreds of members in Mississippi. The AHA advances the ethical and life-affirming worldview of humanism, which—without beliefs in gods or other supernatural forces—encourages individuals to live informed and meaningful lives that aspire to the greater good of humanity.
Special thanks to the Louis J. Appignani Foundation and the Herb Block Foundation for their support of the Appignani Humanist Legal Center.