Bennie L. Hart wants to drive around with a license plate declaring "IM GOD" not because he truly believes he's God—he's actually an atheist—but because he wants to show "that it's impossible to disprove anyone's claim to being 'God,'" as the AP puts it. His new home state of Kentucky is not on board with that idea. Hart moved to the state in February, and quickly had his request for an "IM GOD" license plate denied because, officials said, the message was in bad taste and could lead to confrontations. Hart, who had an "IM GOD" license plate in his former state of Ohio with no issues, is now suing the Kentucky transportation secretary over the matter.
"It's straight-out First Amendment civil rights," Hart, 77, tells the Courier-Journal. "Somebody says, 'Well, gee you can't say that.' Well the fact of the matter is, I can say that." The state's ACLU helped him file the suit. The Kentucky DMV official who denied Hart's request in March cited state law and regulations that prohibit "vulgar or obscene" plates, which Hart's suit says is "demeaning" to Hart's views: "There is nothing 'obscene or vulgar' about my view that religious beliefs are subject to individual interpretation." As for Hart's reasons for being an atheist? Religion boils down to geography, he says. "If you were born in south India you'd be a Hindu. If you were born in Saudi Arabia you'd be a Sunni Muslim. You got to stop and start using your own brain."