On The Front Lines


Rutherford Institute Challenges Biometric Photo Requirement for Oklahoma Drivers’ Licenses, Demands


September 21, 2011

NORMAN, Okla. — The Rutherford Institute has come to the defense of an Oklahoma woman who has been denied accommodation of her sincerely held religious objection to having a high-resolution biometric photograph used on her driver's license. In filing suit against the Oklahoma Department of Public Safety (DPS), Rutherford Institute attorneys contend that the state's demand for a biometric photograph as a condition of being licensed to drive violates Kaye Beach's rights under the Oklahoma Religious Freedom Act and the provisions of the Oklahoma Constitution forbidding unreasonable searches and seizures.

The Rutherford Institute's complaint in Kaye Beach v. Oklahoma Department of Public Safety is available here.

"Whether a biometric ID card in the form of a driver's license or other government-issued form of identification is the mark of the Beast or merely the long arm of Big Brother, the outcome remains the same—ultimate control by the government," said John W. Whitehead, president of The Rutherford Institute. "As Kaye Beach's case makes clear, failing to have a biometric card can render you a non-person for all intents and purposes, with your ability to work, travel, buy, sell, access health care, and so on jeopardized."

In March 2011, Kaye Beach applied to renew her driver's license with the Department of Public Safety (DPS). Upon learning that the biometric photographs used by DPS are stored in a database that is managed and accessed by international organizations, Beach repeatedly voiced her religious objection to the practice and asked to be allowed to use a low-resolution photograph for her license. Kaye Beach subscribes to the Christian belief, detailed in the Bible's Book of Revelation, that Christians must not participate in a global numbering identification system.

Although Beach met all other requirements for renewing her license, DPS refused her request for an accommodation of her religious beliefs, as well as her offer to submit to a low-resolution photograph for her license, insisting that the state law does not provide for alternatives or exemptions. As a result, Beach was not permitted to renew her driver's license. Consequently, Beach has also been deprived of common benefits and services that hinge on possessing a valid driver's license, including the ability to acquire prescription medications, use her debit card, rent a hotel room or obtain a post office box.

In filing suit in the District Court of Cleveland County, Okla., attorneys for The Rutherford Institute allege that DPS' refusal to accommodate Beach's religious beliefs and grant Beach a license violates the Oklahoma Religious Freedom Act. Institute attorneys point out that the state's requirement of a biometric photograph does not serve a compelling state interest and that the state has other means for furthering any such state interest. The lawsuit also alleges that the use of Beach's biometric photograph violates her right of privacy as guaranteed by Okla. Const. Art. II, § 30. Attorneys Eileen Echols, Jonathan Echols and Benjamin Sisney of Echols & Assoc. are working with the Institute in its defense of Kaye Beach's right to religious freedom.