I’ve contacted the lawyer and the author of this article in an unrealized attempt to get the actual lawsuit or filings in the court, but alas nothing so far. Nonetheless, from the Virginia Pilot comes this little bit of asshattery:
They were seven letters on the license plates: ICUHAJI.
Phonetically, it could be read, “I see you, Haji.”
To the Department of Motor Vehicles, the message was considered offensive to Arab Americans and grounds for the tags’ revocation.
But to a former sergeant in the U.S. Army, the plates sent a message of support for the soldiers who served with him during two tours in Iraq.
Sean Bujno of Chesapeake, who was honorably discharged in 2009, is appealing last month’s decision by the DMV to revoke his plates. In Circuit Court documents, he contends that DMV Commissioner Richard Holcomb violated his free-speech rights and his 14th Amendment right to due process.
OK, first, I really don’t see how that sends a message of support, but to each their own I suppose. I’m not a huge believer that every use of the “Haji” is evil incarnate, showing the racist bigotted views of the military. Haji-mart to me never meant anything bad, in fact, to me it was a little slice of Eden where one could get 12 seasons of some TV show for like $1 a disc. (This last trip I purchased Legend of the Seeker, Stargate Atlantis, Sarah Connor Chronicles and Farscape, thus solidifying my nerd credentials.)
The free-speech rights thing strikes me as absurd though.
“The government can’t be charged with deciding what we can and cannot say,” said Andrew D. Meyer, Bujno’s attorney. “There are going to be people who don’t like a certain message, but that is why there is the First Amendment.”
See, I don’t really see it that way. If Sgt Bujno wants to go out to the village green and repeatedly yell “I See you Haji” until he is blue in the face, that would be a Free Speech issue. But my limited understanding of license plates is that they are meant to identify an automobile, not to make some sort of statement. You have a right to say “I effen hate the Yankees” but I wouldn’t get away with using that as my statement in a public HS Yearbook. This strikes me as analogous to the argument made by the IVAW dipshits that kept trying to crash the Presidential Debates. Sure, you have a right to say what you want, but you don’t have the right to hijack something public to make that happen. You don’t have the right to dress up in outlandish gear including a stocking over your head for your drivers license picture, but you certainly have the right to do that if you feel like going to McDonalds looking like a collosal idiot.
I’m curious what you guys think? Setting aside whether it is appropriate (which I think is at least arguable) do you guys think that the Gov’t owes you an obligation to express yourself however you want on your vanity plate, or does it seem that the Gov’t has a certain obligation to maintain decorum? The 14th Amendment angle also seems weak to me. The Gov’t isn’t depriving this guy of a license plate, they’re simply requiring that it meet the standard they set which facially appears to be pretty content neutral. For instance, I’m guessing “ICUHONKY” would also be verbotten.