(CNN) — A judge has ordered the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet to pay more than $150,000 for the attorneys’ fees of a man who was denied of his request for a license plate that read “IM GOD.”
Hart, who says he is an atheist, told CNN affiliate WXIX that he drove around Ohio with “IM GOD” on his plate for more than a decade.
So when he moved to Kenton County, Kentucky, in 2016, he put in a request to keep the same license plate.
But instead, transportation officials sent him a letter denying his request, saying his request was “not in good taste and would create the potential of distraction to other drivers and possibly confrontations,” according to court documents.
In response, the Freedom From Religion Foundation and the ACLU of Kentucky filed a lawsuit on behalf of Hart in November 2016, alleging a violation of his First Amendment rights.
Last November, the court ruled in Hart’s favor, stating, “To allow such plates as ‘IM4GOD’ and ‘LUVGOD’ but reject ‘IM GOD’ belies viewpoint neutrality. Regardless, the court concludes that in this case, (the statute governing such license plates) is an unreasonable and therefore impermissible restriction on Mr. Hart’s First Amendment rights.”
Following the court’s ruling, Hart was allowed to obtain his custom license plate, according to CNN affiliate WAVE.
Then last week, US District Judge Gregory Van Tatenhove ordered the Transportation Cabinet to pay Hart $150,715.50 in attorneys’ fees, as well as $491.24 in litigation costs.
CNN reached out to the Cabinet for further comment.
“I’m thankful to finally have the same opportunity to select a personal message for my license plate just as any other driver,” Hart said in a statement in November. “There is nothing inappropriate about my view that religious beliefs are subject to individual interpretation.”