Decorative Scales of Justice in the Courtroom
Written by Don Byrd
Yesterday, a federal judge in Oklahoma dismissed a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the state’s license plate featuring a Native American image. The plaintiff Keith Cressman, a Methodist pastor, argued the image is based on a statue of an archer shooting a sacred arrow as a prayer for rain. Placing it on state license plates conveys a religious message, his suit claimed, in violation of the separation of church and state.

The Oklahoman reports:

U.S. District Judge Joe Heaton wrote that the statue’s meaning could only be gleaned by research and “not things a person would ordinarily know from common knowledge or sense just from looking at the image on the license plate.”

“A reasonable observer would not be likely to conclude that an identifiable message was conveyed simply from the inclusion of the image on the standard state license plate,” Heaton wrote.

You can read the ruling (pdf) here. Cressman’s attorney says the license plate amounts to religious speech that he shouldn’t be required by the state to express. He plans to appeal. The 10th Circuit previously revived the suit from dismissal to allow for discovery.