Oklahoma City, Oklahoma — November 25, 2015. Today, the Center for Religious Expression (CRE) filed a petition with the United States Supreme Court asking the justices to hear an important case regarding freedom of conscience.
Keith Cressman is a Methodist minister who firmly believes it is morally wrong to promote religious beliefs contrary to the Bible. In 2009, Oklahoma began issuing standard license plates featuring an image of “Sacred Rain Arrow” sculpture, a piece linked to Native American spirituality.
Concerned his display of the new license plate would send a message contrary to his faith, Pastor Cressman asked the Oklahoma Department of Safety if he could cover up the picture of the Sacred Rain Arrow image. He didn’t demand the State remove the image from the license plate, nor did he want to cover up any numbers, letters, or other information. He is not bothered by seeing it, but he did not want to express it.
However, Oklahoma officials informed that any attempt to cover up the Sacred Rain Arrow picture would be a criminal offense, subjecting him to fines or even imprisonment. The only way Pastor Cressman could comply with the law without violating his conscience was to recurrently pay extra for specialty license plates without the image.
“Freedom of speech has little meaning if the State can determine what citizens must say on the State’s behalf,” said CRE Chief Counsel Nate Kellum. “The government can no more command someone to broadcast a state-sponsored message than it can ban speech altogether.”
Pastor Cressman’s pleas for relief have fallen on deaf ears, as Oklahoma refuses to acknowledge Pastor Cressman’s constitutional rights. Now, he turns to the Supreme Court.
“Oklahoma has put Pastor Cressman to the intolerable choice of having to purchase his constitutional rights or violate his conscience,” said Kellum. “We are hopeful that the Supreme Court will consider the vitally important issue and put an end to Oklahoma’s coercive policy.”