Appearing in a pre-recorded video during FFRF’s “Covid Convention” on Nov. 14 was FFRF Member Ben Hart, who successfully sued Kentucky to get “IM GOD” on his license plates. Because of that, Hart earned FFRF’s 2020 Freethinker of the Year Award.
Here is an edited transcript of his acceptance speech:
By Ben Hart
My name is Ben Hart and I live in Independence, Ky., with my wonderful wife of 64 years, Yvonne Hart. I have been named Freethinker of the Year by the Freedom From Religion Foundation. And this is the nice plaque that they have given me. It’s a beauty. I’m very proud to have gotten it.
We moved to Independence from Cincinnati, just across the river. In February of 2016, I applied for the same personalized license plate I had in Ohio for over 12 years — “IM GOD.” The plates also included the phrase “One Nation Under God.” I had no trouble getting it in Ohio, so I didn’t expect to have any trouble getting it in Kentucky. A week later, I got a letter from the Kentucky Transportation Department rejecting my request, which said it was obscene and vulgar. So, of course, I got in touch with the Freedom From Religion Foundation. They sent a letter telling the Transportation Department that it was denying my First Amendment rights. The department replied that the plate wasn’t actually obscene and vulgar, but distracting. It still denied my request.
The Freedom From Religion Foundation then contacted the American Civil Liberties Union in Kentucky, and it agreed to take my case. Later that year, in November of 2016, the suit was filed in federal court. The BBC picked up the story and it went around the world in March of 2017. The Washington Post called for an interview; Fox News called for an interview.
The state filed for dismissal a full year later, but the judge denied the motion.
Finally, in January , I was told my plate was on its way. I asked if it included the phrase “In God We Trust.” I was assured it did.
Then I went to pick up the plate, but it didn’t have the phrase on it. I refused it and they ordered another one. I finally got it — “IM GOD” with the phrase “In God We Trust” on it — no extra charge.
I now have the most famous license plate in the world on the front of my Jeep and the most expensive license plate in the country on the rear, thanks to the Freedom From Religion Foundation and the Kentucky American Civil Liberties Union. The state had to pay $150,000 in attorney fees to deny me my rights, and that, my friends, shows the power our Freedom From Religion Foundation has.
And for those who are wondering, I’m not the god of the bible — that’s the guy who drowned all the babies in the world. I’m the god of the dictionary. The American Heritage Dictionary has six definitions for “god.” Number five is “a very handsome man.” And my wife says I’m a very handsome man. And nobody argues with my wife.