On The Front Lines
Rutherford Institute Challenges Oklahoma’s Mandatory Biometric Photo Requirement for Drivers’ Licenses As Infringement of Religious Freedom
NORMAN, Okla. — The Rutherford Institute has asked a state court to safeguard the religious freedom rights of an Oklahoma resident who objects to a requirement by the Oklahoma Department of Public Safety that in order to acquire a drivers’ license, residents must submit to a biometric photograph, which is then stored in a database managed and accessed by international organizations. Arguing that the state’s demand for a biometric photograph as a condition of being licensed to drive violates the Oklahoma Religious Freedom Act, Rutherford Institute attorneys have filed a motion for summary judgment on behalf of Kaye Beach, whose request to have her religious beliefs accommodated by using a low-resolution photograph for her license was denied.
“Whatever one’s belief systems—whether a person views a biometric ID card in the form of a driver’s license or other government-issued form of identification as 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 and author of A Government of Wolves: The Emerging American Police State. “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, a Christian, voiced her religious objection to the practice and asked to be allowed to use a low-resolution photograph for her license. 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. Rutherford Institute attorneys filed suit against DPS in September 2011 over its refusal to accommodate Beach’s religious beliefs and grant her a license. Although the state previously asserted that use of biometric photographs on driver’s licenses is required by federal law, state officials now admit that federal law imposes no such requirement. In response to the state’s admission, Institute attorneys filed a motion for summary judgment, arguing that the state has not been able to show that the requirement of a biometric photograph serves a compelling state interest or that the state has no other means for furthering any such interest.
Attorneys Eileen Echols and Benjamin Sisney of Echols & Assoc. are assisting The Rutherford Institute in its defense of Kaye Beach’s right to have her religious beliefs accommodated.