News from the Plains. All this RED can make you BLUE
by Barry Friedman
So Oklahoma has this license plate.
It features a strapping young Apache warrior, shooting an arrow towards the heavens in hopes, presumably, of puncturing the rain clouds, causing them to shower Oklahoma with sustenance and irrigation--or something--and it's pissing off the Methodists.
Well, one of them.
Let's back up. Considering how often Oklahoma has suffered from drought, the real problem with the design is its ineffectiveness. It reminds me of that great old Mort Sahl joke about ex-Nazi rocket scientist Wernher von Braun's autobiography, I AIM AT THE STARS.
"Yeah," said Mort, "but sometimes he hit London."
(Let me also stop for a moment to say that shooting an arrow skyward in hopes of coaxing the heavens out of a little precipitation is not any more of less Quixotic than, say, Governor Rick Perry signing a statewide proclamation asking for prayer to do this same.)
So now comes a Methodist minister, Keith Cressman, pastor of St. Mark's United Methodist Church in Bethany, Oklahoma who has brought suit against the state, saying his Christian rights are being usurped because he is forced to affix this heresy to his bumper and appear to be promoting a religion of "pantheism, panentheism, polytheism, and/or animism."
And that's just too many damn isms on the church van.
Cressman's attorney says his client doesn't want the removal of the state's more than 2.9-million license plates, but he does want the state to provide him with another, free, option. (Here's an idea: a visage of favorite son, Gary Busey.) Right now the state charges for vanity plates, including those Christian-based plates, which, presumably, Cressman would prefer, but not at a premium.
Initially, a judge in Oklahoma City dismissed the lawsuit--I'm sure there were snickers involved--but just last week, The 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled 2-1 to allow the case to continue.
One judge who agreed, Scott Matheson, Jr. an Obama appointee, believed the case has merit.
" ... his only alternative to displaying the license plate was to purchase a novelty plate that he better agreed with, which costs an additional $37 more than the standard plateThe dissenting vote, Judge Paul J. Kelly Jr., appointed by President George H.W. Bush, clearly the anti-Christian of the 10th Circuit, said the offense seemed to be all in Cressman's head.
“Mr. Cressman has connected the image on Oklahoma’s license plate to the sculpture and that sculpture to a Native American legend. He asserts that the license plate promotes ‘pantheism, panentheism, polytheism, and/or animism,’ all of which are antithetical to his religious beliefs. However, he has not alleged facts from which we can reasonably infer that others are likely to make the same series of connections. … Cressman’s allegation that others are likely to perceive an ideological message based upon the image—as opposed to a historical or cultural message—lacks facial plausibility.”As silly as this whole thing is--and, clearly, Cressman is playing to the cheap liturgical seats (and for the love of Madalyn Murray O'Hair is this "oppressed majority" act getting old!)--he may have a point. Even the sculpter who designed the piece on which the plate was based describes it as " ... a young Apache warrior shooting his arrow towards heaven with the hope of carrying a prayer for rain to the Spirit World." Personally, I wouldn't get my vestments in a wad over this, but if Cressman doesn't want to drive around with a license plate, according to his attorney, that “might imply his approval of contrary beliefs, such as that God and nature are one, that other deities exist, or that ‘animals, plants, rocks, and other natural phenomena have souls or spirits," he shouldn't have to.
Note to pastor, though: I'd go easy comparing the souls in rocks with the souls in French Bulldogs. Just saying.
Next time Bethany officials want to put a nativity scene outside city hall, or a cross on a fire station, or recite the Lord's Prayer before a zoning commission meeting, or allow the name of Jesus to be invoked at Bethany High School's graduation exercises, it's good to know we can count on Pastor Cressman to be just as offended, just as concerned about the Establishment Clause, and just as outraged that someone is promoting a religion that eclipses the proclivities of others--even if it's his.