Ocean Springs, MS

Ocean Springs suit over “In God we trust” license plates: “I don't want Jesus riding on my car”

Amy Christie

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Atheists in Ocean Springs are taking the Mississippi state to court over its license plates. The plaintiffs argue that the plates displaying the phrase “In God we trust” breach their First Amendment rights. One group has also said that this phrase could be “rooted in hostility.”

How did it all happen?

Separation of church and state watchdog organization American Atheists, the Mississippi Humanist Association, and three atheist Mississippi residents started a lawsuit against the state's commissioner of revenue, Chris Graham.

The alleged reason for the complaint is breaching the rights of nonreligious residents by making them display the national motto on their cars.

The standard license tag for Mississippi has included the phrase “In God we trust” since 2019. Car owners all over the state are required to display the message on each vehicle. If they don’t, they will have to pay a fee for a different design.

For vehicles such as motorcycles and trailers no alternative designs are available.

Through the lawsuit it is hoped that nonreligious residents will be provided with an alternative license plate without paying anything extra.

“Wherever I use my trailer, I am forced to profess a religious idea that I do not believe,” plaintiff Jason Alan Griggs said, according to The Blaze.

Another plaintiff, Derenda Hancock, insists that no one should have the power to step over “her right to be free from religion. I don't want Jesus riding on my car.”

“Every minute they spend on the streets of Mississippi, atheists are forced to act as a billboard for the state's religious message. Some can avoid it by paying a penalty.
For many others, even that isn't possible. Atheists with a disability or a special category of vehicle are stuck proclaiming a belief in the Christian god. It's an abuse of power and unconstitutional,” Geoffrey Blackwell, the Ocean Springs litigation counsel stated in a news release.

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Amy Christie is a passionate writer and journalist, always striving to bring out the positive and create meaningful connections.

Dallas, TX
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