An atheist group filed a lawsuit Tuesday over the phrase “In God We Trust” on Mississippi license plates.
The American Atheists and the Mississippi Humanist Association filed the lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi requesting that the state offer an alternative license plate without paying an additional fee to remove the phrase “In God We Trust.” The group argued that Mississippian car owners’ First Amendment rights have been violated for having to display a religious message on their vehicles, according to the lawsuit.
“No state may force a person to be a mouthpiece for the government’s preferred message,” the lawsuit said.
The lawsuit alleged that “Since 2019, the Standard Tag has contained an ideological, religious message, “IN GOD WE TRUST,” and the vast majority of Mississippi’s car owners have faced a choice: turn their vehicles into billboards for the state’s message or pay an additional fee for a Paid Specialty tag,” the suit said. “This statutory and regulatory regime violates numerous Mississippi car owner’s rights to be free from compelled speech.”
The plaintiffs argued that the state has impeded the Free Speech Clause of the U.S. Constitution which states that an individual is free from displaying the government’s message and beliefs. (RELATED: Satanic Temple Will Sue Mississippi If It Adds ‘In God We Trust’ To New Flag)
A car owner can purchase the Standard tag that includes the religious phrase from the Mississippi License Tag Commission or in some cases may have to pay extra, according to the suit.
In Mississippi, the only way to get around having “In God We Trust” on your car is by paying extra fees for a specialty plate. This is wrong! No one should be penalized for not wanting a religious message on their private property. https://t.co/T9LbL0AqZs
— American Atheists (@AmericanAtheist) June 22, 2021
Plaintiff Jason Alan Griggs was required by law to have the standard license plate. Derenda Hancock, another plaintiff, paid an additional $32.00 saying “I don’t want Jesus riding on my car,” according to the suit.
The state of Mississippi has imposed religious language and symbols into their state government since 2014, when former Republican Gov. Phil Bryant pushed for legislation to add “In God We Trust” to the state seal, Americans United For Separation Of Church And State reported. On May 10, 2018, Byrant announced that the phrase would be added to the license plates, which was enacted in January 2019, AP News reported.