New Jersey Approves ‘ATHE1ST’ Vanity Plate for Leader of Atheist Group After Initial Rejection

RNS-ATHEIST-LICENSETRENTON — The New Jersey Department of Motor Vehicles has approved a vanity license plate that was initially rejected by the Commission over its reference to atheism.

David Silverman, the president of American Atheists headquartered in Cranford, recently applied for a vanity plate bearing the moniker “ATHE1ST” (with the number 1 instead of the letter I, which was already taken. Silverman, pictured, also has a retired version of this plate from a supporter). On Tuesday, Silverman’s application was denied as his request was deemed to be “objectionable.”

He later called to lodge a complaint, but was told that the vanity plate was “offensive.” According to reports, Silverman had obtained a vanity plate in the past bearing the word “BLASFMR” (blasphemer).

Due to the denial this week, Silverman prepared to battle the matter in the courts, but yesterday, the Commission changed its mind and agreed to issue the plate. The Associated Press reports that Spokeswoman Elyse Coffey stated that the clerk had overstepped his or her bounds in making the decision regarding whether or not to issue the plate. While over a thousand words are prohibited to be used on license plates in the state, “atheist” is not one of them, and Coffey said that there is “nothing offensive” about Silverman touting his denial of the Divine.

Silverman was also in headlines recently as American Atheists erected the nation’s first atheist monument at the Bradford County Courthouse in Starke, Florida.

As previously reported, the monument is part of a settlement between Silverman’s organization and officials in Bradford County. Last year, American Atheists sued the county for permitting the display of the Ten Commandments on the premises, which was placed by a group known as Community Men’s Fellowship.

The county had asked the Fellowship to remove the Decalogue, but the men refused to do so. Therefore, instead of forcing the matter, it was agreed to allow American Atheists to erect their own display outside of the courthouse in the free speech area.

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“We have maintained from the beginning that the Ten Commandments doesn’t belong on government property,” stated American Atheists President David Silverman in a press release. “There is no secular purpose for the monument whatsoever and it makes atheists feel like second-class citizens. But if keeping it there means we have the right to install our own monument, then installing our own is exactly what we’ll do.”

Therefore, the group placed a 1,500 pound granite bench near the Ten Commandments monument, which features quotes from American Atheists founder Madeline Murray O’Hair, founding fathers Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin, as well as an excerpt from the Treaty of Tripoli. An area of the monument also reportedly features the ten Biblical punishments for violating the Ten Commandments, such as the death penalty for murder and adultery.

At a dedication event in June, Silverman spoke to the audience both about the monument and his disdain for the laws of God as outlined in Scripture, which he called “barbaric” and a form of “hate speech.”

“The demand to worship one God of one religion under penalty of death is the essence of theocracy,” he said, referring to the First Commandment, “Thou shalt have no other gods before Me.”

However, at one point, Eric Hovind of Creation Today also began speak, and climbed on top of the atheist monument to address the people with the message of the Gospel.

“I’d like to thank the tolerance of the atheists for providing a platform to declare the truth that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father,” he declared. “Thank you so much for providing a platform to preach the truth.”

Photo: Dave Muscato/American Atheists

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