{Sob} Religious Minorities Face Real ID Crackdown

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Anne Broache, CNET News.com, February 6, 2008

No television, no wedding or family photographs, and definitely no image of herself on her driver’s license: That was the devout Christian life that Nebraska resident Frances Quaring was trying to lead.

Which is why, after the state of Nebraska rejected her request for a license-without-a-photograph in the mid-1980s, Quaring sued the state in a landmark case that ended up at the U.S. Supreme Court. She won, with the justices agreeing that preserving her freedom of religion outweighed the state’s interest in requiring an ID photograph.

More than two decades after the Quaring case, approximately a dozen states now offer religious exceptions when issuing driver’s licenses. But because of a federal law called the Real ID Act that takes effect on May 11, residents of those states who have pictureless licenses could expect problems flying on commercial airliners and entering federal buildings, including some Social Security and Veterans Affairs offices.

The new rules could affect thousands of Americans in states including Nebraska, Pennsylvania, Oregon, Minnesota, Kansas, Arkansas, and Indiana. Religious groups including some Amish, Old Order Mennonites, Muslims, members of Native American faiths, and fundamentalist Christians object to identification cards bearing their photographs—or, in some cases, even showing their unshrouded faces in public.

The American Civil Liberties Union, which has criticized Real ID on numerous grounds, says it has received complaints about the law’s rigidity toward religious groups and is “exploring all options,