Oklahoma man allowed to sue state over native american rain god on license plate

AutoBlog – by Jeffrey N. Ross

License plates can be great ways for states to show off their history, but as Oklahoma has realized, they can create some drama, too. In this case, Keith Cressman is attempting to sue the state over the depiction of the “Sacred Arrow Rain” sculpture used on the official Oklahoma license plates.  

This sculpture shows a Native American warrior shooting an arrow at the sky in the hopes of a rain god bringing rain, and Cressman, who is identified as a Christian, feels this is a violation of his First Amendment rights because he is forced either to display an image he finds offensive or pay extra money for a plate he finds more acceptable. The state does issue an “In God We Trust” license plate, but at an initial cost of $18 and an annual renewal fee of $16.50).

Cressman’s case was originally dismissed in 2012 at the district court level, but that dismissal was reversed earlier this week by the 10th US Circuit Court of Appeals because it felt the license plate constituted an act of compelled speech. Thus, the case itself is far from decided, but Mr. Cressman has now been granted permission to pursue it.

Of course, license plates are no stranger to controversy, particularly when it comes to people being offended by what’s on them. Offense is most often generated by vanity plates that display something others don’t want to read, like the case of this bean-curd-loving Tennessee woman who wasn’t allowed to display a plate reading “ILOVETOFU,” or this Georgian man whose gay pride was too hot for the state to handle. Rarer, though, are cases like Cressman’s in which the state itself comes under fire for what’s on a license plate, but it’s not unheard of – Mississippi came under fire in 2011 for just considering a license plate honoring controversial KKK leader and Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest.


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