Man sues Kentucky to put 'IM GOD' on license plate

KENTON COUNTY, KY (FOX19) - A northern Kentucky man is suing commonwealth officials for the right to put "IM GOD" on his license plate.

Ben "Bennie" Hart said he drove around Ohio with "IM GOD" on his plate for more than a decade. Hart, who identifies as an atheist, says his personalized plate is his way of spreading a political and philosophical message that faith is susceptible to individualized interpretation.

"I can prove I'm God. You can't prove I'm not. Now, how can I prove I'm God? Well, there are six definitions for God in the American Heritage Dictionary, and number five is a very handsome man, and my wife says I'm a very handsome man, and nobody argues with my wife," Hart said.

When Hart crossed state lines and moved to Kentucky in 2016, he said he wanted to keep his plate customization the same. Instead, he received a letter from commonwealth transportation officials saying his request was denied because license plates may not be "vulgar or obscene."

"Kentucky's a little bit more Bible Belt than Ohio is," Hart said.

The Freedom from Religion Foundation and later the American Civil Liberties Union of Kentucky responded on Hart's behalf and argued that Kentucky had violated free speech.

"What we have to guard against is the encroachment on our rights, on the constitution," Hart said.

Kentucky's state legal team then sent a reply that stated "IM GOD" is not in good taste and could be distracting to drivers or could lead to confrontations.

"It didn't seem to bother people at all," Hart said. "Once in a while, I got somebody to ask me about it."

The state's lawyer also stated in the letter that they would take the same position if the request was  "IM ALLAH," "IM BUDDAH," or "IM SATAN".
In November 2016, Hart, along with the FFRF and the ACLU, filed a lawsuit challenging the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet. By April 2017, the state had filed for the lawsuit to be dismissed. Just a few days ago, a judge ruled that the case would not be dismissed, and the lawsuit will live on.
"I think everybody should stand up for their rights," Hart said. "If you've got rights, you should stand up for 'em, and if somebody's abusing your rights, then you should stand up to that."

Hart said that his main goal is just to get the "IM GOD" license plate. He said that the next thing that will happen in the case is the involved parties will move ahead to the "discovery" part of the judicial process. It's not clear when there could be a final ruling on the lawsuit. You can read the court documents here.

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