A United State district judge has ruled that the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet has to pay $150,000 to cover the attorneys' fees of a man whose "IM GOD" license plate request was shot down.
That man, Ben "Bennie" Hart, said that he had been driving around Ohio with a plate donning that same statement for more than a decade without an issue. When he moved to Kenton County, Kentucky in 2016 he requested that he be able to keep the same message.
Hart, who's an atheist, says that the five letters he wanted enough to pursue for years in court make up a message that is political and philosophical in nature, as it is intended to voice the opinion that faith can be interpreted however you want.
"I can prove I’m God. You can’t prove I’m not. Now, how can I prove I’m God? Well, there are six definitions for God in the American Heritage Dictionary, and number five is a very handsome man, and my wife says I’m a very handsome man, and nobody argues with my wife,” he told local affiliate FOX 19.
Though we already spoiled it in the first paragraph, Kentucky transportation officials denied his request. According to court documents, they argued that it was "not in good taste and would create the potential of distraction to other drivers and possibly confrontations." A lawyer for the state said that the ruling would be the same if Hart asked for a plate saying "IM ALLAH," "IM BUDDHA," or "IM SATAN."
After Hart was denied, the Freedom From Religion Foundation and the Kentucky chapter of the ACLU put together a lawsuit on his behalf. That suit, which alleged violations of his First Amendment rights, was filed in November 2016.
The court ruled in Hart's favor this past November, saying "To allow such plates as 'IM4GOD' and "LUVGOD' but reject 'IM GOD' belies viewpoint neutrality." They went on to conclude that that statute governing those plates were "unreasonable" and an "impermissible restriction" of the plaintiff's First Amendment rights.
To wrap things up, this past week U.S. District Judge Gregory Van Tatenhove awarded Hart $150,715.50 from the Transportation Cabinet for attorney's fees. He added another $491.24 for litigation costs.
Also Hart is allowed to have the "IM GOD" plate.