Goshen man upset that BMV rejected “ATHEIST” license plate

He wanted to tell the world he doesn’t believe in God, but the Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles wouldn’t let him.

Chris Bontrager tried to get a personalized Indiana license plate that read “ATHEIST,” but was shut down, and the Goshen man feels it’s unjust, according to the Elkhart Truth.

He submitted the personalized plate request in early January. The BMV sent him a letter rejecting the plate, but didn’t give a specific reason why, only citing that the BMV can deny a personalized plate based on three reasons:

• If it carry’s a connotation offensive to good taste or decency

• Would be misleading

• The BMV considers it improper for issuance

Their stance was affirmed in the U.S. Supreme court in a lawsuit filed in 2013 by an Indiana man who wanted “0INK” as his license plate. The vanity plate program was suspended until March of 2016 after the Supreme Court ruling.

Bontragor feels the rejection was religiously motivated. However, there’s no appeal process he can take with the Bureau of Motor Vehicles.

He’s discussing possible lawsuit options with the American Civil Liberties Union, who has told him he may have a case because of the state’s Establishment Clause. That clause states that, if the government allows one religious statement, it must allow all religions to have the same benefit.