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Mississippi's New License Plate Under Fire for "In God We Tr

Mississippi's New License Plate Under Fire for "In God We Trust" Phrase
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Mississippi's New Standard License Plate
Governor Phil Bryant

A national organization that includes atheists and agnostics is speaking out against Mississippi's new standard license plate design that has the phrase "In God We Trust." MPB's Jasmine Ellis has more.

The American Humanist Association is demanding that Mississippi either set a new standard license plate design without a religious phrase or allow people to get another license plate design without paying an extra fee. Specialty license plate designs are $30 extra per year. Roy Speckhardt is executive director of the American Humanist Association. He says the organization wants the license plate changed so there's no government bias.

"Government really shouldn't be in the religion business," said Speckhardt. "And so when it puts 'In God We Trust' on anything it does get into the religion business a bit. Now the court has allowed that in a lot of cases. But in this particular case, the idea that people are asked to display it and to display it or pay more money that's wrong."

The new standard license plate that has been sold since January has the state seal with the phrase "In God We Trust" in the center. The organization sent a letter to Revenue Commissioner Herb Frierson and Attorney General Jim Hood on the issue. Gov. Phil Bryant also received a letter last year after he announced his plan to change the license plate.

Speckhardt says the organization recognizes the phrase "In God We Trust" is part of the nation's motto but says it's not inclusive of people who are nonreligious.

"The concern we have especially here is that not only is it being put on government issued license plates but it's done in such a way that folks are asked to display this as if it's their belief," said Speckhardt. "Which is not only unfair to those who believe differently but almost encouraging them to be dishonest about thier beliefs."

In a statement, Revenue Commissioner Herb Frierson says the department has received the letter and has asked lawyers to review it. The association says it could sue Mississippi if the change is not made or if the state doesn't at least address their concerns in a way that they find acceptable.