Thursday, July 2, 2009

Update on the "NO GODS" license plate

Alright I promised a followup to my original post, but nothing has really happened with the BMV itself yet. The official written appeal for an administrative hearing is going out today. But there's plenty of other things to update related to this (some of which were updates to the original post, but not all of you may have seen those)
  • The original post made Reddit, where it got some really good discussion. The biggest finds via that thread were another Hoosier who had his "GODLESS" plate rejected and has already been in contact with the ACLU of Indiana, and an example of a personalized plate for a Christian that was accepted ("BE GODS"). I'm in email contact with him and am hoping that we can basically combine our appeals to the BMV in some way via the ACLU.

    Some other good points were made there and when I was following that thread the first day it was a pretty lively and almost exclusively supportive discussion. Thanks to mileszs for posting it there.

  • I also submitted the story to The Friendly Atheist, where it appeared. That site is a great resource for atheists, agnostics and even people who just plain respect the separation of church and state. Many thanks to Hemant Mehta for posting my story there. Some great and (obviously) supportive comments there as well.

  • I did get contacted by the ACLU-IN today, and was told my complaint is on the appropriate desk and I should be hearing from them soon. Good to hear, and hopefully they can combine the issue of both my plate and the "GODLESS" plate. I'll post more when I hear more from them (and find out what I should and shouldn't be sharing on public forums I suppose, in case this does get legal)

  • The biggest news is that I was contacted by a producer for CNN. Still very early stages, and not even guaranteed that they will pick up the story, but it's a possibility. I was apprehensive at first, but also think that standing up and doing what I think is right is very important. So when I talked to my wife and asked her what she though and her first words were "Doing what you think is right is the most important thing.", well I knew two things. I knew I had married an awesome woman, and I knew I had to at least try for the possibility of media coverage. So we'll see.
Also some people I want to thank for their help so far.
  • First my wife. She is an atheist as well, and not shy about it either. She's been very supportive of my desire to do what I think is right and fight this and it's just one of the many reasons I love her.

  • My friend E___. Going to leave out her actual name, but a few years ago she went through a fight against an institution on some pretty strong discrimination grounds, which ended up blowing up into a pretty big media thing for a bit. Her advice on dealing with media and how to keep my jittery ass calm when talking to them has been great.

  • Fellow Orphanarium blogger CRS has made some great early points to me on where the argument really lies that make a ton of sense. The "In God We Trust" plates really are beside the point as "IGWT" has become a non-religious statement all over our government (as much as I dislike that) and the real issue is they have approved pro god PLPs, but that rejecting my pro-atheism plate is giving preferential treatment to one viewpoint over another (and has shown that having religion on a PLP is obviously not the problem).

  • All the people on Facebook and Twitter who have given encouraging comments, support and have spread the link around about the story. It's cool knowing I have friends and strangers in my little corner of the Internets who both have my back and see the importance of an issue like this.
SO finally, here I'll include the letter that is serving as my official appeal for an administrative hearing with the Indiana BMV.

Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles
Personalized License Plate Requests
100 North Senate Avenue, Rom 404
Indianapolis, IN 46204

To Whom It May Concern,
My name is Jason B_______, and I am writing to officially request an administrative hearing to appeal the rejection of my personalized license plate (PLP) "NO GODS" dated 06/22/2009 After reading the BMV website relevant to PLP standards, I conclude that this should not have been rejected.

The BMV will deny a personalized license plate request if an objective, reasonable person would find that the customer’s proposed expression on the personalized license plate application is determined to carry a connotation offensive to good taste and decency, is misleading, or is otherwise prohibited.

I do not see how "NO GODS" is offensive to good taste and decency, unless the Indiana BMV considers atheists and non-believers to be offensive to good taste and decency themselves. I have seen at least one PLP with a message of "BE GODS". To allow the that but not a PLP making a different religious (or non-religious) statement would be giving preferential treatment to one viewpoint over another.

Please contact me at your earliest convenience to schedule an administrative hearing. I would prefer to be contacted by email or phone for the quickest scheduling. Thank you for your time, and I look forward to having this issue resolved soon.

Jason B_______
[contact information]

So the next step is waiting on the ACLU to get with me, wait on CNN to get back to me if they want to do the story, and obviously wait on the BMV to respond to my appeal. I'll keep you all updated. Be sure to check back here for updates. Not sure how frequent they will be. Lots of stuff still up in the air. But when I know enough for a substantial post, I'll let you know


Ookware said...

Just to wish you the best of luck with this!

crs said...

I'm going to attempt to post a more technical, "political sciencey" version of what I've already told Jason for the amusement and edification of our potential new readers.