by: John Tyrrell
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In Oklahoma, the Reverend Keith Kressman of St. Mark’s United Methodist Church in Bethany is suing because state license plates show the image of a well-known sculpture by Allan Hauser
The sculpture is called “Sacred Rain Arrow” and depicts a warrior pointing his bow and arrow to the sky in an attempt to make it rain. The arrow supposedly will take the prayers of the people up to the gods.
According to Kressman, he should not have to have an image representing prayers to the Indian rain god on his license plate. Also, he thinks the plate promotes polytheism as Indian culture involves the belief in many gods. Simply, he does not want something he does not believe on his license plate.
Kressman's suit was rejected by the district court, but in taking it up the line to a federal court - The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals - he got a ruling that he did have standing to sue on this matter.
There are a number of Christian ministers in the US who are prepared to stand up with non-believers for the strict separation of church and state. They accept that even their own symbolism is inappropriate in the government arena. I initially suspected Kressman might be one of these, looking for a wedge to help make the point. If he wins, it could set a precedent to get rid of any and all religious expression in Oklahoma government, and perhaps even be a step towards eliminating any reference to God on US money and the Pledge of Allegiance.
I thought he might be on our side.
But far more likely, he is not a fighter for the separation of church and state, but just the opposite. He is backed in his lawsuit by the Center for Religious Expression whose focus is on fighting against supposedly unprecedented attacks on Christian freedom of expression. This is an organization which fights actively against limitations on Christian thought dominating the public sphere. They want Christ in government - but not any other religious views.
I think this must be a court case they are hoping to lose. They want to establish that the image on the plate is both religious and legal. That way they have a wedge to fight for expanded promotion of Christianity in the government arena. Otherwise this court case makes no sense. Winning the case by simply eliminating the archer on Oklahoma plates does nothing to promote Christianity.
We have to hope they fail in their quest to lose, If they win - they set a precedent for elimination of religious symbolism in government.
If they lose, we can only hope (we won't pray) that the court decision is based firmly on the image not being considered religious.
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