By on July 5, 2008

assorgy.jpgShould states be allowed to sell specialty license plates with religious messages? Stefan Lonce, author of a book on vanity license plates, doesn't think so because he wants The New York Times to promote his book and we all know where they stand on the old church-state thing. The one-time New York Times op-ed contributor points out that federal courts consistently rule that vanity plates are protected under the First Amendment. Unless, that is, someone finds the plate offensive. Lonce advocates establishing a national database of "prohibited vanity plate messages, created with advice from First Amendment experts and open to public scrutiny." States would use the db to determine what's PC and what's not. Lonce doesn't even consider the fact that a plate that's considered "offensive" in one state would be perfectly acceptable in another. For example, religious messages prohibited by state law in Vermont are perfectly acceptable in most southern states. "As long as we have a reliable method for deciding what's allowed and what isn't," Lonce concludes. "I say the more, the merrier." And Lonce and his pals at The Grey Lady need to stop trying to say how the First Amendment should be interpreted for the rest of us. 

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23 Comments on “FRESPCH and VNTY PL8S...”


  • avatar
    improvement_needed

    funny picture. – especially the use of the orange…
    wonder if it’s photoshopped or not…

  • avatar
    golden2husky

    This is nothing new, even if it has no religious connotations. In New York, you can't get a plate that has any connection to the World Trade Center or 9/11, no matter how remote a connection. If DMV can figure it out, it's a no deal. And I couldn’t agree more that our country needs a firm and fast separation between Church and State. If there has been a bigger cause of war in the history of humans than religion I would like to know what it was.

  • avatar
    dhanson865

    @improvement_needed Since you apparently didn’t read the other thread on this plate I’ll clue you in.

    https://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/wtf-pl8s-tmth-4-nc/all-comments/#comments

    the plate graces a 2000 Lincoln registered to Pygmy Computer Systems, a Miami company specializing in portable computing devices. Mark Geigel, Pygmy’s president and driver of the gold A55RGY-mobile, said in an e-mail interview that he did not think his “stock issue plate” was such a big deal.

    http://www.thesmokinggun.com/archive/assorgy1.html

    The license plate displayed in the photograph demonstrates how difficult it is to foresee every conceivable problem in this regard, with letters, numbers resembling letters, and the decorative orange that appears in the center of a Florida plate all joining to turn the innocuous combination A55 RGY into something that can be read as the risqué phrase “ASS ORGY.” The photo hasn’t been manipulated, nor is the license plate shown a personalized one (deliberately chosen for its naughtiness or otherwise) — the tag is a random, regular-issue plate assigned to a Lincoln LS automobile registered to a Miami-based computer company. And thanks to the Internet, it’s now one of the most recognizable license plates in the U.S.

    http://www.snopes.com/photos/risque/license.asp

  • avatar
    Pch101

    The folks who seem really eager to put religious messages on their plates aren’t so openminded about everyone’s messages, just their own. They don’t advocate free speech for everyone, but just want to give their own groups the chance to proselytize.

    I’m curious if the Bible beaters would have welcomed plates that celebrate Satan or say nasty things about the Christian god. If the DMV allowed plates such as ALLAH#1, JSUS SUX, FUK GOD or SATAN RLZ, they’d probably be quite upset.

  • avatar
    quasimondo

    Probably not the FUK GOD plate since that does use profanity. The JSUS SUX one too.

    The whole issue is irrelevant given the abundance of bumper stickers on all sides of the issue.

  • avatar
    yankinwaoz

    I’d say let them. To me it functions as a warning that this is someone that I more than likely won’t enjoy spending a lot of time chatting with.

  • avatar
    Dynamic88

    My vote would be to do away with vanity plates altogether. You need a plate, the DMV gives you the next one on the stack and that’s your plate.

  • avatar
    Landcrusher

    We could likely have a lot less PC problems if only people who were ACTUALLY offended were allowed to complain. I feel like the real problem is all the people who want to complain on behalf of the people who MIGHT be offended.

    If someone really was a satan worshipper, then let him put it on his plate. As a christian, I am not offended by someone professing a different belief. OTOH, if the idiot is an atheist, then he is obviously doing it just to be offensive. I an see why others might be offended, but that is their fight.

    Under the PC mentality, being offensive is a matter for others to decide. But to me, it’s also a matter of intent. Certainly, one can be offensive unintentionally, but those people are almost always apologetic if their transgression is tactfully revealed to them. OTOH, if some fanatic jumps down their throats over some misstep, they often get defensive and the fight ensues. It’s the PC police that are upsetting public order in most cases, not the original transgressors.

    • 0 avatar
      allythom

      Landcrusher, I can’t imagine too many atheists using satanic references on their license plates. After all, why profess one’s rejection of magical thinking by referring to yet another form of it. Better to use something like ‘NO2RLGN’ or somesuch if one feels inclined to.

      Personally, I think prudent governors would be very wary of the thin ice formed by combining freedom of speech and separation of church and state. Of course, not all governors are prudent, especially when the revenue carrot is dangled so temptingly. In their shoes I would be keen to avoid having the state get muddled up in issuing ANY religious messages in the form of license plates. If you allow one, you have to allow them all. But that’s just me.

      If you really must express your religious views, or lack thereof, on your vehicle, feel free, just buy a bumper sticker, assuming you don’t already have one.

  • avatar
    dhanson865

    I was once offered a plate with 666 on it from the DMV. They offered it to 3 different people while I was there and had no takers.

  • avatar
    Quentin

    I wanted to get “fhqwhgad” on my license plate. The DMV couldn’t figure out what it meant, so they denied it.

    Backstory: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rXLYoyl6B1s

  • avatar

    I don’t think goyanks would pass muster in Massachusetts. If it did, the person’s car wouild probably get trashed, so it’s just as well.

  • avatar

    @Landcrusher

    a lot of Bay Staters think Yankee fans ARE satan worshippers, so I don’t think that would work here, either, and GOSOX would have similar problems in NY

  • avatar
    Pch101

    I feel like the real problem is all the people who want to complain on behalf of the people who MIGHT be offended.

    Before they were getting nutty about license plates, the super religious were busy burning witches, and punishing scientists who dared to show that sun doesn’t orbit the earth and that mankind evolved from other species.

    Anyone who dared put a GO SATAN or NO JESUS license plate on his or her car had better enjoy buying tires with astonishing frequency and appreciate random colors of paint being added to their cars, because you know that the thumpers would go absolutely nuts.

    It’s a no-win proposition. The DMV would be accused of being devil worshipers and the ACLU would be blamed for their defense of those godless Communists who dared to express contrary views on their plates.

    A lot of people don’t tend to like the First Amendment when it is used to protect others who disagree with them. Go figure.

  • avatar
    golden2husky

    A lot of people don’t tend to like the First Amendment when it is used to protect others who disagree with them. Go figure.….

    Ain’t that the truth. My friend went to school in an upstate NY area. Always one to proclaim her admitted liberal position, she had a “I’m NOT the NRA and I vote, too” bumper sticker on her car. Back then, “I’m the NRA and I vote” was a common bumper sticker. Knowing where she was going, I suggested she might be better off with something less controversial, like “Meat is murder” or “Fur shame”. No, she quoted the first Amendment and was on her way. Two weeks later, her rear window was shot out. She covered her sticker with some flags of communist nations, figuring the gun wielder would be several intellectual levels below Archie Bunker and too stupid to make the connection. She was correct; her window remained intact through graduation day.

  • avatar
    philipwitak

    hope i don’t offend anybody here but, most of the vanity plates i’ve ever noticed just leave me with the impression that the driver must be a dork cuz the message is so goofy.

    only once, have i ever come up with one i’d actually be willing to display on my own car – and i made my living, in part, as an advertising copywriter.

    about 12 years ago, i was finally in a position to purchase my first brand new porsche. california offers a special environmental-themed design showing the tail flukes of a whale about to submerge and i actually considered getting one of those that read: “wailer”

    it was already taken.

  • avatar

    @Pch101: It’s a no-win proposition. The DMV would be accused of being devil worshipers and the ACLU would be blamed for their defense of those godless Communists who dared to express contrary views on their plates.

    Yes, but Satan worshippers are Communists.

    ;-)

    A lot of people don’t tend to like the First Amendment when it is used to protect others who disagree with them. Go figure.

    …which is probably why we have that amendment.

  • avatar

    Quentin that’s an awesome vanity plate story. I’d love for you to call into the brand new Plate Show and talk about that sometime… and for anyone else who would like to chime in or wax philosophic or converse in any way about vanity plates, the show info is on http://www.plateshow.com/

  • avatar
    Kevin

    Bleh, license plates are issued by the individual states, last I checked. So let them be regulated by the state laws and state constitutions — that would be appropriate. Then if you don’t like your state’s policy, you can move elsewhere. Competition among states is good. A great strength of this country. Maybe someday even Michigan will begin to figure that out.

    Screw any national database.

  • avatar
    melllvar

    Unless, that is, someone finds the plate offensive.

    “Free speech is meant to protect unpopular speech. Popular speech, by definition, needs no protection.”

  • avatar
    Lumbergh21

    As long as it doesn’t contain obvious profanity, I don’t see what the big deal is. If it offends you, tough. I believe in limits to “free” speech, but I also believe in very limited limits. When I see something that offends me, whether it be a bumper sticker or a license plate, my first reaction is not “their should be a law against that”; it’s “what a moron” or something similar. In other words, I think your freedom of speech extends to your right to say something that I think is stupid, and I expect you to afford me the same right.

  • avatar
    Lumbergh21

    Pch101 :
    July 5th, 2008 at 9:25 pm

    I feel like the real problem is all the people who want to complain on behalf of the people who MIGHT be offended.

    Before they were getting nutty about license plates, the super religious were busy burning witches, and punishing scientists who dared to show that sun doesn’t orbit the earth and that mankind evolved from other species.

    Anyone who dared put a GO SATAN or NO JESUS license plate on his or her car had better enjoy buying tires with astonishing frequency and appreciate random colors of paint being added to their cars, because you know that the thumpers would go absolutely nuts.

    It’s a no-win proposition. The DMV would be accused of being devil worshipers and the ACLU would be blamed for their defense of those godless Communists who dared to express contrary views on their plates.

    A lot of people don’t tend to like the First Amendment when it is used to protect others who disagree with them. Go figure.

    And goodness knows you’ll never find any god-hating, earth-worshipping kooks vandalizing Hummers, Tahoes, or practically any other car that doesn’t run on hemp. The rhetoric against a belief in God and the religion of this country’s founders, Christianity, seems rather strident given that our constitution, including the freedom of speech, arose from the Christian principles of the 18th century.

  • avatar
    BeyondBelief

    I believe the rhetoric against exists only because the rhetoric for exists. There were many quaint and now outdated notions back in the 1700s: slavery, exorcism, the outing of witches, that sort of thing…

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