City’s site for
vanity car plates
draws flak

The Web site favors "good"
Christian terms, the suit claims

The city's online vanity license plate application violates the separation of church and state by calling words like "PAGAN" and "HELL" offensive while allowing "1GOD" and "HEAVEN," says a civil rights activist.

City & County of Honolulu "If you allow 'heaven' you have to allow 'hell,'" said Michael Golojuch Jr., who wants the city to change the application's filter, which determines the words not allowed on vanity license plates. "The law needs to be applied equally and fairly across the board."

City spokesman Bill Brennan said the Web site will be altered to tell users that if they are denied, they can reapply in person. Now, the site merely tells applicants who are turned down that their submission has "been found to be offensive and will not be allowed."

A written vanity plate application is reviewed by Motor Vehicles Division staff and city attorneys, but Brennan could not provide a list of words usually turned down.

The online application went up May 2 and was aimed at speeding up and streamlining the process of getting a vanity plate.

Golojuch said he tried the Web site earlier this month and found that several Christian words were approved, but at least five terms relating to paganism, Satanism and atheism were not.

He has filed a complaint with the city.

"They need to go back and look at their filters," he said, adding that there are several other inconsistencies. For example, "GAY" is not allowed, but several derogatory terms for homosexuals are.

"The city either was rushing to do it or didn't think it through," he said.

Brennan said the city's filter is one used in several other places, including New York City. There are no additional plans to change the site, he said.

The Web site can be found at www4.honolulu.gov/specialplates.

City & County of Honolulu

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