KENTON COUNTY, KY (FOX19/WAVE) - A United States District Judge has ordered the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet to pay $150,000 in attorney fees to a man who was denied a license plate that said, “IM GOD.”
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 told FOX19 NOW.
When Hart moved to Kenton County in 2016, he wanted to keep his license plate 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.”
The state’s lawyer also said in the letter that they would take the same position if the request was “IM ALLAH,” “IM BUDDAH,” or “IM SATAN”.
The American Civil Liberties Union and Freedom From Religion Foundation filed a lawsuit against the Kentucky Department of Motor Vehicles on behalf of Hart.
The state asked for the lawsuit to be dismissed in April 2017.
By November 2019, the court ruled that the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet violated the First Amendment by denying Hart’s plates. Hart was then allowed to get his personalized license plate.
On Feb. 10, Judge Gregory Tantenhove ordered the KTC to pay Hart $151,206 in attorneys’ fees and litigation costs.