About-Face: State Issues ‘Infidel’ Plate To Iraq War Vet

KINGSFORD, Mich. (WWJ/AP) – State officials say they’ve defused a controversy and issued a personalized license plate to an Upper Peninsula man who wanted to use a variation of the word “infidel.”

Iraq war veteran Michael Matwyuk of Kingsford said the plate was rejected because officials feared it would offend people.

But the secretary of state’s office says it was simply an oversight and issued the plate a month ago.

In a court filing Monday, the state wants a federal judge to dismiss a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan.

When the lawsuit was filed, the state noted that Michigan law bars plates that might be offensive.

Matwyuk, 57, said he and his fellow troops were constantly under attack by Muslim insurgents who called American soldiers “infidels.”

For him, he said, the term has taken on a special meaning.

“It’s certainly a term that the enemy used for us in a way, of course, to intimidate or whatever,” Matwyuk told WWJ Newsradio 950 last month. “And, as a result, we really embraced it, and identified (with) it, and really rallied around it.”

“Terrorists are using it in the idea of death to infidels. That’s what they were saying to us, and that was pretty much my standing, that, yeah, we’re your enemy,” Matwyuk said.

He said the state’s rejection violated his First Amendment rights.

There was no immediate comment Tuesday from Matwyuk’s attorney.

(TM and © Copyright 2013 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2013 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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