License plates, as benign as they are, have a way of sparking controversy — particularly when it comes to religious liberty. Faith-based DMV messages, in particular, have a history of coming under scrutiny, thus a Bethany, Okla., pastor’s court battle over a design on the state’s license plates isn’t entirely surprising.
Pastor Keith Cressman of St. Mark’s United Methodist Church believes that the image of a Native American shooting an arrow into the sky is a violation of his religious liberty, Religion News Service (RNS) reports. Considering the odd nature of the story, the preacher’s legal battle has gone viral.
By having the image — one that is rooted in Native American theology — present on his vehicle, Cressman believes that he is being forced to be a “mobile billboard” for what he deems a pagan faith.
Watch the NewsOK segment below for more background information on the case:
See, the image shows a Native American who is purportedly shooting an arrow into the sky — one that has been blessed by a medicine man. The hope, according to Apache legend, is that by taking this action, a drought can be stopped. Obviously this is out of sync with Christian tradition and, thus, unpalatable to the faith leader.
While some would dismiss the pastor’s complaint, it seems his lawsuit — according to the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals’ decision last week — is permitted to move forward. Having originally been thrown out by a previous judge, the court’s most recent ruling opens the floodgates to Cressman’s free-speech suit.
The pastor’s lawyer argues that his client shouldn’t be forced to say something, even symbolically, that he doesn’t agree with. In his view, the First Amendment is protective in this regard.
“My client does not believe he should be compelled to display an image that communicates a pagan practice, that of shooting an arrow into the sky to draw rain from a ‘rain god,’” lawyer Nathan Kellum of the Center for Religious Expression told RNS.
There’s no telling where the case will go from here. While Cressman does have other options available for personalization and isn’t necessarily forced to have this image on his plate, other potential symbols would cost extra money — a factor he decries (read more about the history of the Native American-themed plates).
(H/T: Religion News Service)
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