OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. — Spurred on by a lawsuit filed by attorneys for The Rutherford Institute, the Oklahoma State Legislature is poised to enact a law that protects individuals from being forced to violate their religious beliefs by submitting to a biometric photograph as a condition of obtaining a driver’s license.
The Institute’s lawsuit, filed on behalf of Kaye Beach, a Christian, against the Oklahoma Department of Public Safety (DPS), asserts that requiring a biometric photo requirement as a condition of obtaining a driver’s license violates Oklahoma’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act. Unable to renew her driver’s license because of her objection to the biometric photo requirement, Beach has 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. Upon being signed by the governor, the new law, S.B. 683, would require that the DPS issue a nonbiometric driver’s license to anyone raising a religious objection to the biometric photo and destroy any biometric images of the residents held by the DPS. In April 2016, Oklahoma’s Court of Civil Appeals reversed a lower court judgment against Beach and reinstated her lawsuit.
“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 Battlefield America: The War on the American People. “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 and used to enhance the government’s surveillance and tracking capabilities, Beach, a Christian, voiced her religious objection to the practice and asked to be allowed to use a low-resolution photograph for her license. DPS refused to accommodate Beach’s religious beliefs, and denied her request to use a low-resolution photograph on 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 and was subsequently 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 later admitted that federal law imposes no such requirement. In 2015, S.B. 683 was introduced and passed in the Oklahoma Senate and later in the Oklahoma House. The legislation is in committee to reconcile differences in the two versions.