Okla. License Plate Artwork the Subject of a Forthcoming Lawsuit

Image: Okla. License Plate Artwork the Subject of a Forthcoming Lawsuit

Friday, 14 Jun 2013 05:28 PM

By Hillary Mayell

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A man can sue the state of Oklahoma, a federal appeals ruled Thursday, because he believes the state's license plate featuring an image of a "rain god" goes against the separation of church and state.

Keith Cressman originally filed a suit against the state in 2011, arguing that the Native American artwork could be seen as supporting a singular religion, and therefore violates the separation between church and state provision of the U.S. Constitution.

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Cressman told the Tulsa World that he "adheres to historic Christian beliefs."

The case was originally dismissed. Cressman refiled his suit in 2012, and the case was reinstated on the court docket of the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

The license plate image is a depiction of a sculpture “Sacred Rain Arrow” by artist Allan Houser. Houser was a well respected Chiricahua Apache sculptor, painter, and illustrator, who was born in Oklahoma in 1914 and died there in 1994. His work can be seen at the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C., and in collections in Europe, Japan, and other major museums throughout the world.

The license plate is the standard issue for the state of Oklahoma. Cressman initially purchased a vanity plate, paying $37 extra, so as not to display the contentious image.

Cressman’s attorney, Nathan Kellum, has told the Associated Press that his client "doesn't want to be forced to say something that he does not want to say."

The Oklahoma Attorney General’s office is arguing that the Oklahoma license plate design is simply a depiction of the state’s history and a piece of artwork and does not violate anyone’s constitutional rights.

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Related stories:

Electronic License Plates Proposed in South Carolina to Make Highways Safer

Federal Judge Nixes 'Choose Life' License Plates in North Carolina

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