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Indiana scraps problematic personalized license plate policy

Lawsuit filed by ADF attorneys challenged ban on personalized plates that mention God
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INDIANAPOLIS — Indiana officials will drop a statute against references to religion or a deity on personalized license plates in the wake of a lawsuit filed by attorneys with the Alliance Defense Fund. ADF attorneys had filed the suit on behalf of Liz Ferris, a woman whose application to renew her nine-year-old personalized plate was denied because of its reference to God.            

Liz Ferris was finally able to obtain her chosen personalized license plate after ADF attorneys settled her lawsuit with the state of Indiana.

“Christians shouldn’t be discriminated against for expressing their beliefs.  We believe the state’s decision to scrap their problematic policy eliminates that discrimination and respects the First Amendment rights of Ms. Ferris and all Indianans,” said ADF Senior Legal Counsel Erik Stanley.

After having a personalized license plate reading “BE GODS” for nine years, Liz Ferris re-applied for the plate in March after realizing she had accidently let it lapse.  In May, the Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles refused to renew the plate as “inappropriate due to form or content” because it violated its policy banning references to religion or a deity.  Ironically, the state offers “In God We Trust” license plates to the public.

After ADF attorneys filed the lawsuit, the Bureau of Motor Vehicles decided to settle the case, agreeing to abandon the policy in favor of using its previous policy for judging personalized license plate applications.  The older policy does not eliminate messages simply because they refer to religion or deity.

Ferris was inspired to apply for the specialty plate years ago by Christian musician Rich Mullins, who signed autographs with the phrase “Be God’s,” meaning, “Belong to God.”

ADF-allied attorney Michael Cork, of the Indianapolis-based firm Bamberger, Foreman, Oswald, & Hahn, LLP, served as local counsel in the lawsuit, Ferris v. Stiver, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana.

ADF is a legal alliance of Christian attorneys and like-minded organizations defending the right of people to freely live out their faith.  Launched in 1994, ADF employs a unique combination of strategy, training, funding, and litigation to protect and preserve religious liberty, the sanctity of life, marriage, and the family.