Iraq War Veteran Sues Michigan Secretary of State Over ‘Infidel’ License Plate
The fine line between freedom of speech and common decency is in question this week in Michigan, as an Iraq War veteran has filed a lawsuit against the Michigan Secretary of State because his personalized license plate, branded with the word “infidel,” was rejected.
According to the complaint, Michael Matwyuk, a military veteran who served in Iraq in 2004 and 2005, recalls fighting insurgents in Fallujah where American soldiers were commonly referred to as “infidels,” meaning “having little faith,” that he and the rest of his squadron became connected to before being sent home.
The complaint continues, saying that last year, Matwyuk allegedly attempted to purchase a personalized Iraq War veteran license plate, but his initial request – INFIDEL – was rejected. A second attempt, using a variation of the world – INF1DL – was accepted.
However, before Matwyuk received his plate, the state made the decision to decline his request based on Michigan law prohibiting personalized license plates that could be found offensive to “good taste and decency.”
Matwyuk says the license plate is his way of turning a word with a negative meaning towards American soldiers into something positive.
"It's a point of pride and patriotism that many of us identify with, just as we would identify with the word 'soldier,'" he said. "This license plate is simply an expression of my service as an Iraqi combat veteran."
The lawsuit suggests that Matwyuk’s free speech and due process has been violated as outlined in the First Amendment. Officials from the Michigan Secretary of State have not released any comments on the suit other than reiterating that the state will not allow “plates that might be considered offensive.”