The WSJ Law Blog reports that the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals in New York has reversed a lower court ruling in favor of the state of Vermont in a case where the state had rejected a Vermonter's request for a vanity license plate containing a Biblical reference. The appeals court ruled Friday that the First Amendment leaves room for religion on vanity plates. Shawn Byrne, the Vermonter who brought the case, had applied to the state for a vanity plate reading "JN36TN", which he says is a reference to the Bible verse John 3:16 ("For God so loved the world..."). The AP said of the ruling ""THE REV" and "PSALM48" can now join "ARMYMOM" and "DARE2BU" on the license plates of cars in Vermont."
In its opinion the court writes, ""The state rejected Byrne's message only because it addressed ... areas of otherwise permissible expression from a religious perspective. This the state cannot do." The court also emphasized that its ruling was limited to the state's ban on religious messages; the state can keep its ban on vanity plates that refer to scatological subjects, genitalia, illicit drugs, racial epithets and other objectionable material.