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US court strikes down state policy barring religious themes on license plates

October 11, 2010

A US federal appeals court has overturned a Vermont state law that prohibits motorists from choosing religious messages for their automobile license plates.

About 38,000 Vermont car owners have chosen their own “vanity plates” with a personal message, but Shawn Byrne was not allowed to choose “JN36TN”—a license plate that would have referred to the Gospel verse: John 3:16. That message, state officials said, would have violated a ban on licenses that are either “objectively” or “subjectively” religious.

The 2nd Circuit appeals court said that the Vermont policy, which allows motorists to carry messages on a wide range of other topics, "impermissibly restricts expression from a religious viewpoint."


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