American Atheists President David Silverman files appeal for denied custom New Jersey “ATHE1ST” license plate

New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission said plate design is "objectionable" and "offensive"

See bottom of page for links to current news coverage of this story.


Despite previously approving such custom license plates as “1M2SEXY,” “CLIMAXX,” “IAMGOD,” and “BIOCH,” the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission denied American Atheists President David Silverman’s application for a custom license plate reading “ATHE1ST.” The reason given was “Objectionable or Need Further Clarification.”

When Silverman called to offer this clarification as requested in the denial letter, he was told that the proposed plates were “offensive” over the phone.

Silverman applied for “ATHE1ST” spelled with a number “1” instead of the letter “I” because “ATHEIST” was unavailable.

The New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission has actually previously approved “ATHEIST” as a license plate (with I instead of 1). Here is a photo of David Silverman with an old (retired) New Jersey officially approved license plate reading “ATHEIST”:



For media:

Full resolution image available at this link:

Here is the text of the denial from the NJ Motor Vehicle Commission:


Thank you for your interest in New Jersey’s personalized plates. Unfortunately your request must be denied at this time due to the reason(s) stated below.
Requested Plate Number: ATHE1ST
Reason for Denial: Objectionable or Need Further Clarification
If you have any questions, you can contact MVC at
Thank you for using New Jersey’s MyMVC Electronic Services.

An appeal has been filed. Here is a PDF of Silverman’s appeal letter: NJ Appeal Letter (PDF link)

Here is a PDF of the denial from the NJ Motor Vehicle Commission: NJ Plate Rejection Email (PDF link)

For media requests, please contact American Atheists Public Relations Director Dave Muscato at (908) 276-7300 x7 or [email protected]

Links to current coverage:

Reddit link (2,600 upvotes and 1,000 comments):

  • Adam Moran

    I’ve been given the same response from the state of Hawaii in regards to a “NO GOD” license plate request. Can’t wait to see how this plays out.

  • elronxenu

    And New Jersey apparently does not prohibit new plates which could be confused with existing plates due to similar shaped characters, i.e. 1/I, 0/O ?

  • George

    It is objectionable. I can’t put “GOD” or “PRAY” on my plate so you can’t deny the same on yours.

    Honestly, why are ‘atheists’ so worried about something they don’t even believe exists?

    • Cheryl Hartz

      We’re “worried” about it because not a day (hour) goes by that religion doesn’t try to influence our laws and our schools. Not a day goes by that religion doesn’t cause irreparable harm to individuals and society as a whole. We’re tired of being quiet about this.

      • Richard McNally

        Great reply Cheryl.

    • Vanadise

      Why do you think you can’t get “GOD” or “PRAY” on license plates? I haven’t seen any stories about them being denied, and as far as I’m aware they’re not on NJ’s list of prohibited plates, at least.

      Most atheists are “worried” about something that doesn’t exist because their government is controlled by people who worship that non-existent entity and try to enforce laws based on their fables.

    • AtheistInBibleBelt

      Since when???? I see personalized license plates about god, jesus, and praying ALL THE TIME.

    • Gregg Macey

      Did you READ the article George? Or are you just that stupid? They APPROVED a plate that reads “IamGOD”, and for your second stupid question it’s not about being worried about something we don’t believe in, it’s about the separation of church and state (which no one seems to follow anymore) and about not letting you MORONS think you can run this country!!!!!

    • G Wesley Bennett

      If people can put IamGod on government property (license plate) which is offensive to many, then why not “atheist”? It’s a matter of free speech. Besides, it’s not about “worried about something they don’t even believe exists” it’s about what theists do believe… believing in something that doesn’t exist.

    • marie

      George, you don’t have to try to put “god” on a license plate because many states already have them pre-stamped and ready to go….e.g., Florida, South Carolina, Georgia, to name a few, are printed with “In God We Trust.”
      If you read the article, George, the guy simply wanted a vanity plate. Considering all the other “offensive” plates that were approved, how is the word “Athe1st” offensive, exactly?
      This has nothing to do with worry and everything to do with someone at the New Jersey DMV passing judgment, based on personal beliefs, and denying someone the right to express themselves on a vanity plate.

    • Paul

      George, really? Are you really so ignorant as to be unaware that the separation of Church and State is being constantly challenged by the superstitious. Are you so ignorant that you don’t understand that the rational minded can be FIRED for not holding superstitious beliefs. It is time for the Atheists to be heard, seen and elected to public office.

    • paul ferry

      But you should be able to George. You have that freedom (or you should) as do I. Vanity plates are meant to be vane and indicative of the person that owns it. Otherwise, what’s the point? Besides, how many vanity plates have you seen that really make no sense and have no effect on you whatsoever?

    • Mario Strada

      He didn’t want the plate “NOGOD” or something similar. He has the word “Atheist”. There is no denial of god on the plate. He is simply defining himself. You are reading into it.

    • greentreeone

      Don’t feed the trolls

    • darth

      why do blacks care about clan members you gigantic silly fuck ?

    • Someone Who Likes Pie

      Too bad you can’t fit “I Believe In Santa For Adults” as it’s relatively the same thing.

    • dagobarbz

      Why can’t we advertise that we are not superstitious suckers? Would it hurt your ickle feelings?

  • bilder

    atheist GODless..ETC …I would not have such a provoking sign on my behind …with so many lunatics ..around.. SAFETY FIRST otherwise you are denying the danger of your surroundings an you deserve what you have coming….what is wrong with being a nd atheist and not rubbing it on everyones face…. BE WISE. ! if not good luck youre gonna need it.. you might even lose some of your female followers… Bah. 😛

    • George

      They don’t believe it exists so why worry. Let them figure it out the hard way.

      • bear1

        well, there are ways in which one might prove that point, George, but not one individual has EVER come up with that answer, and it *has* been a coupla thousand years.

        someone’s not praying HARD enough!

      • greentreeone

        Troll harder dude

    • 0ddman

      Funny that atheists don’t vandalize cars with the jesus fish on them – but everyone fears the retaliation of angry xtians! I have a modified jesus fish with legs and the word SCIENCE as my bumper sticker – no vandalism so far . . . .

      • Atheist Discrimination

        Atheists have consciences and moral ethics because they use their brains and know it’s wrong to harm others or their property. ‘Christians’ know they can go to church and their imaginary god will give them a ghetto-pass for being bad. I think christians feel threatened and are lashing out – with church #’s dwindling and church scams and crimes being exposed, there’s less support for religion. Also, pardon if I offend anyone… but the older, completely-brainwashed church supporters are dying – young folks know to think for themselves.

      • AlisonH2O

        I’ve had a Darwin Fish torn off my car- twice. I’ve also had my car keyed- twice; in a parking lot for no apparent reason other than I have a “science” rocket fish and an “evolve” fish on my car. If someone’s faith is so flimsy as to be rocked by a little silver fish on a car and compelled to be destructive- well, all the better my point.

        • SomeoneWhoLikesPie

          I’ve had some weird stickers ripped off my car and had food thrown at it in a parking lot in a city full of open-minded people (kind of like Portland or San Francisco) and one of the stickers simply said “Vagitarian” or something along those lines. I was parked *near* a church, but not on their property or anything, but someone had a pissy fit & had to do something, which just makes the case stronger that these people are the fucking wrong ones & the bad ones, as they are prone to violence, rage & malicious behaviors over even the smallest things & have no control or moral boundaries….. I just don’t understand how ANY of those people can actually think they are the good side of a situation when they’re the ones being hateful and violent and discriminatory, while we do the opposite.

    • julie kowalski

      How is it any more “provoking” then the fish or “jesus saves” or any of the other thousand religious crap we see/hear everyday? If expressing something about one’s self is provoking then I guess we’re way late to the fight.

      • dagobarbz

        The point is not that it is MORE provoking, it’s that it is going to provoke someone, somewhere.

        My friend had some bible verse on her car, written in Arabic. Would you say that’s provoking? Because someone vandalized her car because of it.

        Provocative is provocative. It’s not a contest.

        • Chaos

          So basically what yer saying is “live in fear……or else”?

          • joe shmo

            yep just like their gods …

          • dagobarbz

            No, I am saying if you want to be a dick a provoke people for whatever reason, what goes around comes around.

          • Chaos

            So stating you religious preference aloud is provoking when you’re an atheist, but when you’re not……it’s just stating your religious preference right?

          • dagobarbz

            No. You’re just making up stuff now. I said if you provoke people you should not be surprised when things happen.

            You don’t really need to have religion in the mix, just something somebody feels too strongly about. Got it now?

          • Someone Who Likes Pie Hates U

            You are way off base here. This wasn’t about provoking anyone. It’s the same exact statement as if a license plate said “christian” or “jewish” or something like that, the person was merely stating their personal belief. Something isn’t “provoking” just because it pisses someone off or offends them, nor is it meant to be. You’re extremely confused.

          • dagobarbz

            Something isn’t “provoking” just because it pisses someone off?

            So you’re saying there must be malicious intent behind it or it’s not “provoking?”

            Okay…Imma let you finish but I am gonna slide over here and check the old Funk n’ Wagnall.

          • Cthulhu21

            Hey, just because something pisses you off doesn’t mean its going out of its way to piss people off; especially when it’s not insulting them outright.

  • AtheistInBibleBelt

    The cc at the bottom of his appeal letter is the best part. 😉

  • Allen B. Carter

    Ha! Go get ’em, David!

  • Ralph Horque


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  • Sarah

    I got denied for SLOTHZ in NJ for the same reasons. An appeal seems to be standard procedure for vanity plates in NJ. I’m an atheist but think this is getting made into a bigger deal than it needs to be.

  • ackthbbft

    I’ve seen a large number of vanity plates in Las Vegas with overtly religious messages (I’ve tried to keep a list of ones I’ve seen), and yet I’ve been denied myriad variations on atheist messages. Only Penn Jillette seems to have been allowed such plates, but he probably used his celebrity to acquire them.

    I’ve thought about asking the ACLU about this, as not only does denying my plate requests violate my 1st Amendment rights of free expression, but to allow religious messages over non-religious messages could conversely violate the 1st Amendment’s guarantee against government endorsement of religion.

    In fact, many of those religious personalized plates I’ve seen could violate the NV DMV’s own rules:

    “The Department will reject requests for any personalized license plate that:

    Expresses contempt, ridicule, or superiority of race, ethnic heritage, religion, gender, or political affiliation.”

    For me to have a plate that identifies myself as an atheist, yet does not claim superiority over or ridicule of religion should pass muster, and yet often get denied.

  • Pete

    Would love an “ATHEIST” license plate like this to match my shoes!!!! ~ wonder how much they charge for Vanity plates here in Ontario? …and whether some kook would try to stop me from getting one made?

    • Dave Muscato

      They’re surprisingly cheap in many areas! In Missouri (where I’m from) it’s only $15. In some places it’s as low as $5.

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  • Michelle B

    I see your license plate and your banner and your t-shirt there, but you have no atheist hat. I am confused by this ambiguity.

  • Ben

    I have OHIO “IM GOD” someone damaged my hood, at my family reunion .
    My friend in the next county has “ATHEIST” .

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  • fjpor

    Way to go, David. Do I see one that is in Florida on the bottom of your letter? Darn – I was going to apply. Thank you to whomever has already done so. Again, thank you for standing up to the system and WINNING!!! Yes!!

  • Atheist Discrimination

    I see lots of god/jesus lic plates around… they are afforded religious freedom. it’s discriminatory to deny someone’s non-religious freedom. Yes… pull the “D” (Discrimination) card if you have to. Us Atheists are discriminated against Right and Left (pardon the pun, but it does apply). Even businesses who have the ‘fish’ posted on ads, signs, vehicles get preferential treatment. Perhaps we need to have a Non-Theist March on Washington!

    • Cousin Ricky

      We did have one, in March of 2012. Media coverage was pathetic, though. Best coverage was from Al Jezeera. Most comedic coverage was from Faux News.

    • Lemastre

      Any time a business plays the fish card, watch out.

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  • freedom

    driving is a privilege not a right. If he asked for the license plate “Imagod” It probably would have been denied too. He should have had it approved, but that does not mean he has the right to have it approved, they can deny it for no reason at all. If he thinks his driving privileges are rights, he should combine his right to drink, carry a loaded gun while driving, and play music at a level beyond 80 decibels, all while driving as fast as he thinks he has the right to drive,, without insurance, then let me now how that works out for you

    • Shannon

      Wow freedom, where do I start.

      This is not an issue of driving privileges, which he already obviously has, it is an issue of not having a vanity plate denied on the basis of someones personal definition of what is “offensive”. If all plates addressing religious/non religious beliefs were denied to not upset the populous, you may have an argument (although one I still wouldn’t agree with, based on the concept of “freedom”). But as the article said, sexually and religiously suggestive material had already been oked by the New Jersey DMV, including the original ATHEIST plate he is holding in the picture. The jump from “he should be able to represent his deistic beliefs on his licence plate” to “well then he might as well blast down the turnpike with his shotgun and a Colt 45” is excuse my language, fucking retarded.

      I hope you are trolling just for the sake of it, if not may (a possible) God have mercy on your ignorant, half-witted soul.

    • Lemastre

      It appears to me that we all have the right to drive, as long as we meet the competency tests for licensure, regardless of our religious or nonreligious leanings — just as we have the right to practice law or medicine, etc. I assume you’d agree that our ability to exercise these rights should not depend on the whim of whomever happens to consider our submitted request for a license, but on the quality of the application (applicant). By the same token, I know of no law restricting acquisition of vanity plates to persons of any particular or apparent religious leaning, so any denial on that ground is obviously based on mere whim and must be contested.

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  • Graham Ash-Porter

    You so lucky. In UK we can’t have anything totally unusual.
    Congratulations Dave

    • Qua

      Really? I did not know that at all. You learn something new every day!

  • SomeoneWhoLikesPie

    It’s always because some idiot in charge of approving/denying some crap is religious and only PERSONALLY takes offense & doesn’t know how to be objective about it that this kind of shit happens. It’s ridiculous. I wish I could be one of those people and refuse THEIR application next time they apply for some stupid crap displaying their blatant hateful, racist, or just religious bullshit.

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  • NWaff

    nothing wrong with an atheist license plate.
    What I can’t stand is the anti-Christmas hate messages from atheists organizations.

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