God and the BMV

November 21, 2008
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Who would have thought God would be such an issue at the Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles?

The religious deity and the use of the word “God” continue to prompt Indiana residents to file suits – one challenging the lack of extra fees to get the “In God We Trust” license plate; the other fighting for a specialized “BE GODS” plate.

Here’s an interesting dilemma the BMV just might face: what if someone wants to personalize an “In God We Trust” plate with the word “God?” According to BMV Commissioner Ron Stiver’s statement released earlier this week, anyone applying for pro- or anti-deity messages won’t be approved under a new regulatory process that took effect earlier this month.

An interesting side note on the new process – Stiver says the standards took the effect of the law, but the law only grants the BMV the authority to refuse to issue a plate that “carries a connotation offensive to good taste and decency; or would be misleading.” I.C. Section 9-18-15-4. In fact, the administrative hearing officer assigned to hear Elizabeth Ferris’ rejected renewal for her “BE GODS” plate wrote in the recommended order that the BMV doesn’t have a statutory grant of authority to prohibit messages solely based on a reference to a god or religion. Do messages with a religious or anti-religious phrase fall under the “offensive” exception or are they being rejected by one of the new standards that aren’t listed in statute?

How can the BMV reject the word “God” on a license plate that already has the word “God” on it? If they use the argument it is “offensive” to people, then is the “In God We Trust” plate considered offensive under the new standards the BMV adopted? If so, how will it reconcile that with the fact the General Assembly created the “In God We Trust” plates?
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  1. Frankly, it is tragic that you are even considering going to an expensive, unaccredited "law school." It is extremely difficult to get a job with a degree from a real school. If you are going to make the investment of time, money, and tears into law school, it should not be to a place that won't actually enable you to practice law when you graduate.

  2. As a lawyer who grew up in Fort Wayne (but went to a real law school), it is not that hard to find a mentor in the legal community without your school's assistance. One does not need to pay tens of thousands of dollars to go to an unaccredited legal diploma mill to get a mentor. Having a mentor means precisely nothing if you cannot get a job upon graduation, and considering that the legal job market is utterly terrible, these students from Indiana Tech are going to be adrift after graduation.

  3. 700,000 to 800,000 Americans are arrested for marijuana possession each year in the US. Do we need a new justice center if we decriminalize marijuana by having the City Council enact a $100 fine for marijuana possession and have the money go towards road repair?

  4. I am sorry to hear this.

  5. I tried a case in Judge Barker's court many years ago and I recall it vividly as a highlight of my career. I don't get in federal court very often but found myself back there again last Summer. We had both aged a bit but I must say she was just as I had remembered her. Authoritative, organized and yes, human ...with a good sense of humor. I also appreciated that even though we were dealing with difficult criminal cases, she treated my clients with dignity and understanding. My clients certainly respected her. Thanks for this nice article. Congratulations to Judge Barker for reaching another milestone in a remarkable career.

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