But Michael Matwyuk says he and his fellow soldiers "came to embrace their identity as 'infidels' in the eyes of their enemies."
The federal lawsuit states that Matwyuk "and his fellow troops were constantly under attack by insurgent extremists whose word for the American soldiers was 'infidel.' Seeking to reclaim or reappropriate this term as a source of American pride and patriotism, Sergeant Matwyuk and other soldiers came to embrace their identity as 'infidels.'"
Matwyuk claims that many Iraq veterans get tattoos with the word or sew patches displaying the word on their uniforms.
He has already appealed the denial twice citing his First Amendment right, and argued the state's "offensive to good taste and decency" restriction is unconstitutionally vague, arbitrary and discriminates on the basis of viewpoint.
The Department of State responded by saying "where we draw the line is if the sentiment could be construed as offensive to the general public. In the case of infidel we believe it does carry an offensive connotation now because of the way it's being used by radical elements.'"
But Matwyuk notes that the configuration 'HERETIC' is currently in use as a personalized license plate in Michigan, saying the Department of State "has issued other personalized license plates that express religious sentiments, skepticism about religion, and dissent from religion."
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