“No matter how much Gov. Reeves or other politicians want to pretend that Mississippi is some kind of Christians-only club, it doesn’t make it true,” said American Atheists President Nick Fish in the statement. “Forcing atheist drivers to endorse a religious message they reject is antithetical to our values as Americans and unconstitutional, plain and simple.”
In the suit, the groups stress they are not challenging the national motto or the Mississippi state seal.
Instead, they are challenging the rules and practices requiring “Mississippi‘s nonreligious drivers to display the government’s preferred ideological, religious message on their vehicles or, if they refuse to do so, pay higher fees to legally drive their vehicles,” according to the suit.
These practices, the lawsuit claims, violate their free speech and free exercise rights under the First Amendment.
The lawsuit argues that by only giving nonreligious people the choice of displaying the state’s standard “In God We Trust” license tag or instead paying an additional fee, Graham is requiring them “to engage in activity that violates their sincerely held beliefs and coerced them to engage in religious exercise to which they object.”
The complaint references the Fulton v. Philadelphia case, in which the Supreme Court ruled last week that a city-funded foster and adoption agency that opposes same-sex marriage on religious grounds can be exempted from serving such couples.
In a statement, American Atheists said the Fulton case bolsters the group’s claims.
“The Court ruled that where a law or policy includes a system of exemptions, a similar exemption must be provided for anyone with religious objections. Since Mississippi provides alternative plate designs to certain categories of individuals, atheists and other Mississippians who object to ‘In God We Trust’ must receive equal treatment,” the statement says.