— David Silverman (@MrAtheistPants) August 26, 2013
New Jersey rejected a man's vanity license plate for being offensive: it would have read "ATH1EST" (ATHIEST was unavailable because it had been previously used and retired).
What New Jersey did not realize at the time was that they were messing with the wrong guy. David Silverman is not only @MrAtheistPants on Twitter, he is the President of American Atheists, a fifty year-old group that fights for “civil liberties of atheists and the total, absolute separation of government and religion.” Silverman has already filed an appeal with the State of New Jersey, and if the appeal is rejected, expect MrAtheistPants to file a lawsuit.
According to American Atheists, the State of New Jersey isn’t always so puritanical. They have previously accepted, IM2SEXY, CLIMAXX and IAMGOD (the last of which would presumably be offensive to some religious folks as well). Seeing as “ATHEIST” is not profane, not hateful, and not especially offensive to people who don’t believe that everyone else needs to share their beliefs, New Jersey doesn’t seem to have a rhetorical leg to stand on.
To put it another way, I should not be able to guess the beliefs of the person who rejected that license plate, but in this case, it seems obvious that the DMV employee is not an atheist. Nothing can be objectively offensive, but to get rejected, a license plate ought to be more universally offensive. GODSUX would be one thing, but ATHEIST is just a statement of one’s own beliefs. It’s a statement that more and more people share, and maybe everyone else should just get over that.