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Atheist group suing Mississippi over ‘In God We Trust’ license plate

Photo courtesy of Governor Phil Bryant/Twitter

An Atheist group is suing the state of Mississippi over its use of the phrase ‘In God We Trust’ on the state license plate. 

The suit, filed by the American Atheists and three Mississippi residents, claims that the state is infringing on nonreligious people’s freedom of speech and religion by “forcing them to display this religious message on their private property.”

The organization is demanding that the state offer an alternative license plate at no additional fee. 

“Currently, trailer, RV, and motorcycle owners, motorists with disabilities, and drivers with a custom plate message must display “In God We Trust.” Car owners without a disability or a custom plate message must pay approximately $32 for a specialty plate without “In God We Trust.” This amounts to a fine. The Supreme Court in Wooley v. Maynard (1977) declared such compelled speech on license plates unconstitutional after a Jehovah’s Witnesses driver in New Hampshire objected to displaying “Live Free or Die,” the American Atheists stated in their announcement. 

A similar lawsuit was threatened by the American Humanist Association when the plate was unveiled in 2019, promoting Governor Tate Reeves—then a candidate in the race for governor—to release a campaign ad vowing to defend Mississippi’s values against the “out-of-state liberals” that opposed the new license plate. The governor re-shared the ad on social media Tuesday in response to the filing of the lawsuit. 

The organization did clarify that their suit does not challenge the constitutionality of the national motto or the current Seal of the State of Mississippi. ‘In God We Trust’ also appears on the new state flag, but that is also not challenged in the lawsuit. 

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