Amish photo exemption draws concern

2011-08-18T19:45:00Z 2011-08-18T22:10:13Z Amish photo exemption draws concernBy Kurt Erickson Lee Springfield Bureau nwitimes.com
August 18, 2011 7:45 pm  • 

SPRINGFIELD | Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White raised questions Wednesday about a new law designed to exempt Illinois' Amish population from having their pictures on state identification cards.

White, whose office issues state ID cards and driver's licenses, told the Lee Springfield Bureau the idea doesn't make a lot of sense to him.

"How do you use this document as a form of identification?" White said during an interview at the Illinois State Fair. "You match the name with the face. I don't see how that could take place without a picture."

State Rep. Adam Brown, a Decatur Republican, pushed for the legislation during the spring legislative session. He said Amish leaders in central Illinois wanted the exemption because of religious convictions about having their pictures taken.

The measure, House Bill 1484, doesn't require the Secretary of State to issue the picture-less ID cards. Rather, it gives White the option to craft rules to implement the idea.

Gov. Pat Quinn signed the proposal into law on Monday.

On Wednesday, White didn't sound inclined to push for the change.

"Normally we require a picture on every person's license. They may want to use it to get on an airplane. My question then is, 'What do they present?'" White said. "I think the lawmakers may want to take a second look at it."

Brown said he wants to work with White and the Illinois State Police to move forward with the idea. He has suggested the state police develop a separate, nonpublic database for Amish and other religious groups that could be called up to verify people opting against getting the pictures on the ID cards.

"I think an internal system could work very well," Brown said. "We've also discussed using fingerprints. We definitely want to build safeguards into it."

A similar photo exemption for Firearms Owner Identification cards was proposed in the spring, but it did not win approval because of objections voiced by the state police.

The sponsors of the identification card exemption include Brown, state Rep. Chapin Rose of Mahomet, state Sen. Dale Righter of Mattoon, and state Sen. Kyle McCarter of Lebanon.

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