Christian Pastor Given Go-Ahead to Sue Oklahoma over Native American License Plate Design

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

A federal appeals court last week approved a Christian pastor’s lawsuit against the state of Oklahoma over its license plate image depicting a Native American sculpture.


Keith Cressman of Oklahoma City filed litigation in 2011 objecting to the state’s standard license plate, adopted in 2008, which appears on three million vehicles statewide, claiming the image on it promotes Native American spiritual beliefs and thus endorses a religion. Federal Judge Joe Heaton dismissed the lawsuit last year, but a panel of the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals voted 2-1 to reinstate it on June 11.


The license plate in question shows Allan Houser’s “Sacred Rain Arrow” bronze sculpture, which sits on display outside Tulsa’s Gilcrease Museum. The sculpture depicts an Indian shooting an arrow skyward to bring down rain.


To Cressman, the image “retells the story of a Native American who believes in sacred objects[,] in multiple deities and in the divinity of nature[,] and in the ability of humans to use sacred objects to convince gods to alter nature.” Cressman, on the other hand, “believes there is only one true God” and that it is “a sin . . . to honor or acknowledge anyone or anything as God besides the one true God.”

-Noel Brinkerhoff, David Wallechinsky


To Learn More:

Court: Man Can Challenge Oklahoma ‘Rain God’ Plate (by Tim Talley, Associated Press)

Appeals Court: Christian Can Sue Oklahoma over Native American License Plate (by Kay Steiger, Raw Story)

Keith Cressman v. Michael Thompson (Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals) (pdf)

Parents Sue School District for Teaching Kids Yoga (by Ken Broder, AllGov California)

Judge Rules North Carolina License Plates Unconstitutional (by Noel Brinkerhoff and David Wallechinsky, AllGov)


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