- Associated Press - Tuesday, August 4, 2015

TULSA, Okla. (AP) — Oklahoma’s standard license plates, which show an Apache warrior shooting an arrow into the sky, do not contain a religious message, a federal appeals court ruled Tuesday, rejecting the claim of a pastor who claimed the plates were an affront to his Christian beliefs.

The 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver upheld an Oklahoma federal judge who had tossed out Bethany pastor Keith Cressman’s lawsuit against the state.

An attorney for the pastor said he was disappointed by the ruling and is considering an appeal. A spokesman for the Oklahoma attorney general’s office, which represented the state, declined to comment on the ruling.

Mr. Cressman’s claim fails because he cannot demonstrate that the Native American image is, in fact, speech to which he objects,” the court found.

The plate was inspired by Allan Houser’s “Sacred Rain Arrow” sculpture.

However, the 10th Circuit noted a state task force in 2007 wanted a new plate to market Oklahoma to potential tourists and ruled that a “reasonable observer” wouldn’t view the plates and conclude that the image communicates the legend in which a warrior shot an arrow skyward in an effort to bring rain.

Mr. Cressman had said the image conveyed a message that there are multiple gods and that the arrow was an “intermediary for prayer.”

The court disagreed.

“At least in the context of its mass reproduction on Oklahoma’s standard vehicle license plate, the Native American image is not an exercise of self-expression entitled to pure-speech protection,” the court ruled.

Nate Kellum, chief counsel for the Tennessee-based Center for Religious Expression, which represented Mr. Cressman, called the ruling a disappointment.

“We believe the decision begs for further consideration,” he said.

Houser is recognized as one of the foremost sculptors of the 20th century, and the statue was displayed at the Olympic Village during the 2002 Winter Games in Salt Lake City.

Sign up for Daily Newsletters

Copyright © 2019 The Washington Times, LLC.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide