Still Another Cert Petition: Oklahoma “Sacred Rain Arrow” License Plate

Here is the petition in Cressman v. Thompson:

Cert Petition

Question presented:

Oklahoma compels Keith Cressman to display an image of the “Sacred Rain Arrow” sculpture from his vehicle – via his standard license plate – although he objects to displaying that image. This Court addressed the same issue in Wooley v. Maynard, 430 U.S. 705 (1977), holding New Hampshire violated a couple’s right to free speech by forcing them to display the state motto “Live Free or Die” on their vehicle’s standard license plate over their objection. But the Tenth Circuit distinguished Wooley on the ground that Wooley concerned words, not images.

The Tenth Circuit – creating a conflict with the Sixth Circuit- held artistic images disseminated in significant numbers are not pure speech and must be analyzed as symbolic speech instead. The Tenth Circuit then compounded a pre-existing circuit split on the protection afforded symbolic speech, using an approach different from all others, holding symbolic speech must present an “identifiable message to a reasonable observer” to ensure constitutional covering. And, in applying these novel principles to Cressman’s compelled speech claim, the Tenth Circuit contravened precedent further in holding Cressman’s speech was not compelled because his objection did not match the inference a “reasonable observer” would draw about the image.

The question presented is whether the State can compel citizens to display images that are objectionable to them?

Lower court materials here.