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When It Comes To Personalized License Plates, Choose Your Words Wisely

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On: Tue, May 25, 2010 at 9:55AM | By: Sherry Christiansen

When It Comes To Personalized License Plates, Choose Your Words Wisely

You have probably heard the phrase “be careful what you ask for.” Well, when it comes to ordering personalized license plates “be careful what you write.”  A federal judge in South Carolina said the state violated the constitution when lawmakers voted to authorize license plates inscribed with the words “I believe,” as well as images of little crosses and stained glass windows. 

The statute the judge was referencing pertains to our constitutional rights for separation of church and state.  Lt. Gov. Andre Bauer, who initiated the legislation allowing the license plates to be printed, condemned the ruling, stating, "For those who say proclaiming 'I believe' violates the constitution by giving preference to Christianity, I think this lawsuit clearly discriminates against persons of faith."

Advocate for separation of church and state, Rev. Barry Lynn said in a news paper interview; "Government must never be allowed to express favored treatment for one faith over others."

More recently a New Jersey woman in Manville received a letter from the State Motor Vehicle Commission asking her to send in her license plates as a result of a complaint filed about the plates being offensive. The plates donned the letters “BIOCH”, supposedly insinuating 'biotch', slang word for 'bitch'. Evidently the motorist had been legally driving around in her Chrysler convertible, license plates personalized with the letters “BIOCH” for four years before the state realized what the slang stood for.

The commission, in processing your request, erred and assigned a combination which is considered objectionable," Dodie Burrell, a supervisor in the Special Plate Unit, wrote in the May 5 letter. "The commission has no alternative but to immediately recall the license plate." The New Jersey woman had to settle for a new license plate with the words “Whatever” instead, but she expressed that she doesn’t understand why the word “Bioch” should not be allowed as it “is not even a real word.”

In Canada, a Toronto man was denied personal license plates that read, “kick butt.” The man owned a survivor boot camp personal training business and wanted to display the phrase on his car license plate to exhibit his business motto. The Canadian government ruled that the phrase was offensive and sexual, and sent the man a letter stating, “The government of Ontario must avoid giving the impression that it is prepared to offend some people at the request of others."

With the price of personalized license plates getting more affordable (fees range from only $15-$20), it seems that the profit the state receives from personalizing plates would hardly be worth the time required to decipher and regulate whether or not the requests may be offensive or illegal, particularly when you consider the cost of a Supreme Court trial.



gator done | 12:32PM (Wed, May 26, 2010)

This is why we pay Governments the big bux, to regulate our license plate verbiage!
Who cares what your license plate says? Its nice driving down the road and coming upon a funny and creative license plate. If I see a plate that says HOOKER, it does not offend me, my eyeballs dont fall out, my nose doesnt start bleeding, God doesnt hate me for reading it. If my child sees it and asks me what HOOKER means. Well, if he is old enough to read it then it is my responsibility to explain it.
If you are offended by the plate, then dont read it.

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