US Judge: Muslim female must remove veil for driver’s license
A Muslim woman who stated religious reasons in refusing to drop her veil for a driver's license photo must show her face for the camera if she wants her license reinstated, a Florida judge ruled on Friday.
Circuit Judge Janet Thorpe ruled that Florida has a compelling interest in identifying drivers during traffic stops and that photo images are necessary to advance that interest. "The requirement that all potential drivers have their driver's license photos taken unveiled, uncloaked and unmasked does not unconstitutionally burden the free exercise of religion," the judge wrote, according to Reuters.
The plaintiff, Sultaana Freeman, obtained a Florida driver's license that showed her wearing a black veil with only her eyes showing, back in February 2001. Seven months later, the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles notified her that her license would be revoked unless she was photographed with her face uncovered.
Freeman, 35, for her part, refused, saying her faith did not allow her to reveal her face to strangers or men outside her family. Freeman, an American citizen has worn a full veil since converting to Islam around six years ago.
The American Civil Liberties Union sued on her behalf, arguing that revoking the license violated her right to religious freedom. They said the state acted out of prejudice against Muslims and only objected to the veiled photograph following the September 11 attacks.
Attorneys for the state said Florida has a legitimate public safety interest in establishing drivers' identities. They said the original license was issued in error and that if Freeman were allowed to hide her face in her license photo, terrorists could do the same. Moreover, they said she could be photographed privately by a female official. (Albawaba.com)
© 2003 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)
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