A group of atheists filed a lawsuit Tuesday to remove the phrase “In God We Trust” from Mississippi’s official state license plates.
The state is violating residents’ freedoms by forcing them to display a religious phrase – or pay extra for specialized plates, said the federal lawsuit by the American Atheists, Mississippi Humanist Association and three state residents.
“Wherever I use my trailer, I am forced to profess a religious idea that I do not believe,” Alan Griggs, a plaintiff, said in a statement.
“Imagine a Christian having to drive around with ‘In No God We Trust’ or ‘In Allah We Trust.’”
Car owners can avoid displaying the phrase, which has been on Mississippi plates since 2019, by buying specialized plates for $32 – but there are no specialty plates for cars with custom tag numbers or for RVs, motorcycles and disabled drivers.
Atheists are being forced to “act as a billboard” for the religious message, said Geoffrey Blackwell, attorney for the American Atheists, which claims 350,000 “members and supporters” nationwide.
The message is “rooted in hostility” against non-Christians and non-believers, the lawsuit stated.
“Some can avoid being a mouthpiece for the government by paying a penalty,” Blackwell said in a statement. “For many others, even that isn’t possible.”
“Atheists with a disability or a special category of vehicle are struck proclaiming a belief in the Christian god. It’s an abuse of power and unconstitutional.”
The Satanic Temple had previously threatened a lawsuit over the redesigned plates, WLOX reported.
The groups who filed the lawsuit targeted Gov. Tate Reeves for his support of the phrase and perceived hostility toward atheists.
A 2019 campaign ad showed Reeves affixing the plate to a vehicle.
“Mississippi has a brand new license plate but the out-of-state liberals hate it,” he says in the spot. “It’s because of these four words: ‘In God We Trust.’”
On Tuesday after the groups announced the suit, Reeves reposted the video to his Twitter account.
“I know Mississippi’s values are our strength … and I meant it when I said as Governor I would defend our values every single day!,” he wrote.
“I will defend ‘In God We Trust’ on our tag, on our flag, and on our state seal ….Every. Single. Day.”