September 7, 2005

The completely covered face in the driver's license photo.

A Florida appellate court rejected the claim of a Muslim woman who wanted to appear veiled in her driver's license photo, with only her eyes showing.
The Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles issued [Sultaana] Freeman, 38, a license in 2001 showing her veiled with only her eyes visible, but later suspended it.

Freeman sued, claiming the suspension infringed upon her First Amendment rights.

In 2003, Circuit Judge Janet C. Thorpe agreed with authorities that letting people show only their eyes would undermine efforts to stop terrorists. That same year, Gov. Jeb Bush signed legislation requiring a picture of a driver's full face on a license.

The appeals court found enforcement of the law "did not compel Freeman to engage in conduct that her religion forbids -- her religion does not forbid all photographs."
That's a rather strange way to word the problem. Her religion doesn't require her to have a driver's license, I assume. So even if her religion did forbid all photographs, the law wouldn't require her to engage in conduct that her religion forbids. But perhaps her religion requires her to veil most of her face? Then the law compels her to do something against her religion to the same extent that it would if her religion had forbidden all photographs. I don't think the ultimate answer should depend entirely on whether the law forbids what the religion requires, but it would be nice if the court could at least get it straight whether that is what is happening.

I haven't read the case, only the news report. Maybe I'm being unfair to the judge.

34 comments:

miklos rosza said...

The woman in question was not raised in a Muslim culture, but is an American convert. Should this have any bearing upon how we view her claim?

Kevin S. said...

Well the judge certainly be making the decision based upon his interpretation of what her religion requires or doesn't require. *That* state action might very well be a first amendment violation. It would be the government, through the courts, defining what religion is, creating a serious Establishment Clause issue.

After the Smith and Lukumi Babalu cases, all the free exercise clause requires is that the law be neutral on its face and not be motivated by an attempt to discriminate against religious conduct. And *that* is what the court should have been asking, not whether the religion compelled her to cover her face. If neutral laws applied in a neutral fashion prohibits a person from simultaneously practicing their religion and taking advantage of a state benefit, then that person must choose one or the other. The Constitution does not provide sanctuary.

Jim Breed said...

It's like they told me 31 years ago at the Independence, MO DMV, "driving isn't a right, it is a privilege."

Al Maviva said...

Ann,

This is a Florida appellate court hearing a case of first impression. We should be damn glad the result came out the way it did. We are supremely lucky that the court didn't reinstate Lochner, and then inadvertantly declare Kweisi Mfume emperor of the United Kingdom of America and Canadia, subject to a recount of Enron's claimed profits in 1999.

Al Maviva said...

FYI, Kevin, it's not a First Amendment Violation. Post Smith v. Employment Division of Oregon, facially neutral laws that incidentally burden the practice of religion, are permissible under the First Amendment unless they infringe on some other fundamental right - say the right to due process as well. This doesn't appear to be such a hybrid claim. The statutory analysis under the Florida statute, or for that matter if it occurred in the Federal context under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, would be tougher, is somewhat tougher. Miklos, the claim doesn't turn on the origins of her faith, but whether her faith is sincerely held. Otherwise, the state would be in the business of judging the sufficiency of religious doctrine, which *would* be in violation of the Establishment Clause.

Wave Maker said...

Perhaps at this very moment I am just lacking patience with my profession -- but I find the plaintiff's assertion here ridiculous on its face and a waste of resources. If the case is forced upon an appellate court to write an opinion upholding a perfectly obvious lower court decision, I don't blame her-it-them for tossing something off that is less than elucidating. That the writer may lack a certain pride of authorship, or that the concurring members might not care how it reads, are questions about Florida jurisprudence that didn't begin with this case (or Bush v. Gore either).

Bruce Hayden said...

The problem is that we are at war right now, and many of those on the opposite side are of the Moslem persuasion. Yes, mostly we have to worry about young men, in the 17-25 or so category, but not all. Israel, at least, has seen female suicide bombers, fully covered.

I don't think that it is too much to ask these Moslem women to conform to our norms when it comes to identification, if they want to travel here, in a time of war.

miklos rosza said...

Saudi Arabia simplifies things by not allowing women to drive. Other Muslim countries which issue driver's licenses require photo I.D. This includes Iran, Jordan, United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Egypt and Yemen.

School prayer is also being fought for by Muslims here in the U.S.

ploopusgirl said...

Bruce: Have I ever mentioned that I cannot stand you for the life of me?

For the love of God, how do you not know how to spell Muslim?

cowrieshells said...

please, there are alternate spellings, there is moslem and there is muslim.

Pat Patterson said...

My Webster's Dictionary reads "Moslem n." see "Muslim", sounds like the words are used interchangeably in English.

ploopusgirl said...

Good thing I asked for anyone else's opinion...

Sloanasaurus said...

"...I don't think that it is too much to ask these Moslem women to conform to our norms when it comes to identification..."

I agree. We have cultural standards in this country, and that includes showing your face in a Driver's license photo.

SippicanCottage said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
DaveG said...

Good thing I asked for anyone else's opinion...

If you want to spout inanities and nitpicky criticisms about the usage of commonly accepted spellings without having to deal with others responding, I'd suggest creating your own blog and turning off the comments.

Not that you asked for my opinion....

pst314 said...

ploopusgirl:

"Moslem NOUN: Variant of Muslim"

--The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition, at bartleby.com

Two hundred years ago, "Mussulman" was a common variant.

If you don't want somebody else's opinion, don't join into a public discussion. And if you want a little respect, be more willing to show respect and courtesy to others.

pst314 said...

SippicanCottage:

"So take me back to Constantinople.
No,you can't go back to Constantinople..."

Kevin S. said...

Al: I never implied the law was unconstitutional, and I basically stated the same standard you did. What I implied would be unconstitutional is a jurisprudential doctrine that relied on ascertaining whether an activity was a core component of a religion. That's what Prof. Althouse's post suggests the Florida court did. Surely you see how this would be problematic.

And if the Florida free exercise clause is somehow different and commands more protection than the First Amendment (I have no idea if it does), I would suggest that the state could not interpret its free exercise clause in a manner that tramples on the Federal establishment clause by, for example, requiring a court to acsertain a level of burden on expression using reference to "how important" an expression is. The beauty of the unjustly maligned Smith case is that it steers free exercise jurisprudence away from these potential conflicts with the Establishment Clause.

Bruce Hayden said...

ploopusgirl,

You aren't the first, and probably won't be the last. I have been told that I am getting worse with age. We shall see. Obviously, I didn't intend to offend you, so sorry.

As to the difference between "Muslim" and "Moslem", the later seems to be derived from the former. The dictionaries I looked in typically show Moslem used both as a noun and an adjective, whereas Muslim is apparently almost always used as an adjective.

My guess is that the basic problem here is the translation of words from a foreign language, notably Arabic here, into English. (How many different ways have you seen Al Qaeda spelled in the last couple of years?)

www.bartleby.com has a dictionary that includes .wav file pronounciations, and it is hard to distinguish between the two words as spoken. This appears to be because the "o" in "Moslem" has a little "u" in it, and visa versa for "Muslim". Thus, the root Arabic word is probably somewhere in between in pronounciation.

Freeman Hunt said...

My guess is that the basic problem here is the translation of words from a foreign language, notably Arabic here, into English.

I'd say that's exactly right. I took 18 hours of Arabic in college. The o/u in Moslem/Muslim is a short vowel (if I remember correctly) that can transliterate to either an o or u in English. Same with the e/i (English alphabet) stand-ins for another short vowel).

Stephen C. Carlson said...

Howard Friedman's blog, Religion Clause (Sep. 3, 2005), explained the case somewhat differently from the news report:

"In Freeman v. Dept. of Hwy. Safety & Motor Vehicles, the court held that the photo requirement did not place a substantial burden on Freeman’s religious exercise since the Department was willing to accommodate her beliefs by having her photographed by a female photographer with no one else present in the room."

DaveG said...

I love irony:

http://www.thesmokinggun.com/archive/sultaana1.html

MAY 28--Turns out the Florida woman who is suing for the right to wear a Muslim headdress in a driver's license photograph has previously been subjected to an, um, unveiled government portrait.

Freeman Hunt said...

Oh my. I guess her deep religious conviction does not extend to not beating foster children.

Pat Patterson said...

If the multiculturalists were truly serious then we would have veils at the DMV, babies left at landfills and bull fights in California.

Slocum said...

I'm waiting for the first case of somebody wearing a burqa robbing a gas station or a bank.

I have seen women (at least I assume they are women--there's no way really to be sure) covered in burqas with even their eyes behind mesh fabric wandering around in Sam's Club. I find this quite anti-social and somewhat disturbing--as I would shopping among people wearing, say, Matrix style trench coats and black ski-masks.

I wonder, would it be illegal for stores to exclude people whose bodies and faces were totally obscured?

SippicanCottage said...
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Bruce Hayden said...

Somewhat OT, but SippicanCottage's comments on Constantinople vs. Istanbul started me looking around. I had just assumed that it had been named the later by the Turks in 1453 when Constantinople fell to them (to the victors go the spoils). But I was surprised to find that the Germans still refer to Istanbul as 'Konstantinopel', the French and the British as 'Constantinople' and the Italians as 'Constantinopoli'. But, at least since the Republic, the Turks have called it Istanbul, and this is apparently somewhat of a hot button for them. My vote is that, since it is in their country. (And is why I prefer Beijing to Peking).

Bruce Hayden said...

Slocum is worried about when someone (presumably, but not necessarily) in a burqa robs a gas station, etc. This is a worry, but I am just as worried about someone so dressed committing an act of terrorism.

In the London bombings, they were able to track down the perps fairly quickly from the videos of them apparently placing the bombs. But what if it had been Moslem women in full burqa doing such?

Bruce Hayden said...

Sorry about that last post. The first sentence should have been:

Slocum is worried about when someone (presumably, but not necessarily a woman) in a burqa robs a gas station, etc.

Ann Althouse said...

As to Muslim/Moslem: I think you should use the current convention Muslim. I would use the spelling preference of the people you are naming, and I believe that is the current preference. Otherwise, it may appear to express hostility, whether you mean it to or not.

Ann Althouse said...

As to criminals using Muslim dress to disguise their identity: there are innumerable ways to disguise your identity if that's what you want to do. Wearing Muslim dress isn't the best way to escape attention in the U.S. The problem of covering your face in an important ID photo is entirely different. Everyone is required to have their full face photographed and the woman in question is seeking very unusual special treatment. The most compelling aspect of her case is that initially she was allowed to get her license that way and later government officials focused on her and seemed to target her because of a problem they associated with Muslims. If they had just had a flat, generally applicable rule all along and refused to make an exception, it would have been a lot easier to deny her claim.

Joseph White said...

I'm really old school. I still call it Byzantium.

Candice B. said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
hannah said...

At the time when I got my driver's license, I didnt wear a hijab (headscarf). I do wear it now, and recently had to get my license renewed. I had the option on the form on NOT having ANY photo if my religion forbade it -- I dont mind my picture on the license, but I thought it was interesting that if need be I could refuse ANY kind of picture. (This was for a PA license, maybe it's not the same in other states)