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Alabama Santa wins fight to keep 'HO HO' license plate

By Ben Hooper
Alabama Santa wins fight to keep 'HO HO' license plate
An Alabama Santa said the state told him his "HO HO" license plate is offensive. Screenshot: WSFA-TV

MONTGOMERY, Ala., Dec. 21 (UPI) -- An Alabama Santa said Christmas is saved after the state reversed an earlier decision to revoke his "HO HO" license plate because it could be seen as offensive.

Dave Reid, who plays Santa Claus year-round in the Montgomery area, said he went to renew his license plate recently, but the state Motor Vehicle Division told him his "HO HO" license plate, a special wildlife edition featuring a picture of a deer, was being banned after six years because it could be offensive.

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"I have a 1999 4Runner that across the back glass says 'My other ride is a sleigh' with a wildlife license plate that says HO HO," Reid told WSFA-TV. "How offensive is that? People drive by me on the interstate so everyone can wave and take a picture. Who is offended by that? It's ridiculous."

Reid said he ended up leaving the probate office with a standard tag, but he took to the state's website to investigate further.

"I went on the computer where you can reserve your tags," Reid said. "I tried several variations. When you type H-O it locks up. I typed in UA, like the University of Alabama, space H-O-E, and it took it! Essentially, I could be driving around a license plate that says UA HOE, but I can't have a license plate that says HO HO."

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Reid said he feels the issue infringes on his freedom of speech.

"When you live with the spirit of Christmas year round, when you project that spirit to the children, where ever you meet them, whenever you meet them, it's a slap in the face when a government entity says that's offensive," Reid said. "How far do we go with that? It's really crazy."

WSFA-TV said it contacted the Alabama Department of Revenue and never received a response, but Reid said he got a call Monday evening telling him he could pick up a "HO HO" temporary tag Tuesday and a regular one would be sent to him in 10 to 12 days.

A Kentucky man, Bennie L. Hart, is currently embroiled in a lawsuit in his state for the right to have his license plate read, "I'M GOD."

Hart, who previously had the same license plate in Ohio, secured assistance from the American Civil Liberties Union of Kentucky and Freedom From Religion Foundation.

"Under the First Amendment, government officials do not have the authority to censor messages simply because they dislike them," ACLU-KY Legal Director William Sharp said. "And in this instance, personalized license plates are a form of individual speech equally deserving of First Amendment protection."

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