A group of atheists and humanists have sued the state of Mississippi over the phrase “In God We Trust” on state license plates, declaring it to be deeply hostile to those who do not believe in a higher power.
One of the plaintiffs in the case, Jason Alan Griggs, compares the fact that he is forced to drive around with words he does not believe on the back of his vehicle to a Christian being forced to sport a message professing adherence to Islam.
While “In God We Trust” is the default license plate for the Magnolia State for vehicle owners unless they pay a fee for a specialty plate. Motorcycles and trailers, on the other hand, have no alternative, according to Faithwire.
Griggs says he is being “forced to profess a religious idea that I do not believe.”
“Imagine a Christian having to drive around with ‘In No God We Trust’ or In Allah We Trust,’” he said.
Deborah Hancock, a self-professed “radical atheist,” says her right to be “free from religion” is being infringed on.
One of the other plaintiffs on the court filing, Derenda Hancock, describes herself as “a radical atheist” and said the government should not have the ability to infringe on “her right to be free from religion.
When applying for a new license plate in 2019, she reportedly told a state agent that she didn’t “want Jesus riding on her car,” opting instead to pay the $32 for a plate that featured the “Mississippi Blues Trail” instead of “In God We Trust,” which she renewed again in 2020.
The lawsuit, which was filed by the American Atheists, also includes the Mississippi Humanist Association.
It was filed Tuesday against Mississippi’s commissioner of revenue, Chris Graham, who oversaw the introduction of the “In God We Trust” plates in 2019.
BREAKING: We just filed a lawsuit in Mississippi challenging the state's requirement that every driver display the divisive and exclusionary "In God We Trust" motto. https://t.co/86WiNLa4Zy pic.twitter.com/oSTg7vOhX0
— American Atheists (@AmericanAtheist) June 22, 2021
It is worthy of note that “freedom of religion” and “freedom from religion” are not necessarily the same thing. Our founding documents were written in a time when the prevailing culture was predominantly Christian and, to this day, the majority of its citizens still identify as such.
The right to believe and practice one’s deeply held faith without intrusion from the state is clearly outlined in our founding documents. The right to be free from a republican government that professes faith in the God of the Bible, on the other hand, is not necessarily the same thing.
Of course, the framers also clearly established the rights for these atheists to challenge the state license plates in court, so it is the judiciary who is now tasked with determining whether they have a constitutional right to be free from driving around with this phrase on their vehicles.
“Every minute they spend on the streets of Mississippi, atheists are forced to act as a billboard for the state’s religious message,” said American Atheists attorney Geoffrey Blackwell, according to Faithwire.
“Some can avoid being a mouthpiece for the government by paying a penalty. For many others, even that isn’t possible. Atheists with a disability or a special category vehicle are stuck proclaiming a belief in the Christian God. It’s an abuse of power and unconstitutional.”
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