(OKLAHOMA CITY, OK, 3/5/09) – The Oklahoma chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-OK) today joined other groups concerned with constitutionally-protected religious freedoms to express concern about a bill that bans religious headwear in driver’s licenses and other identification card photos.
The bill, HB 1645, passed in the Oklahoma House of Representatives on Monday. An Oklahoma Senate subcommittee is expected to take up the bill next week.
The proposed amendment states: “The photograph or image shall clearly identify the licensee or cardholder and shall depict a full front unobstructed view of the entire head and shoulders of the licensee or cardholder. Hats, head scarves, head garments that cover or partially cover the head or shoulders are strictly prohibited and shall not be worn by the licensee or cardholder when being photographed for a license or identification card.”
CAIR-OK believes the amendment proposed by Rep. Rex Duncan (R-Sand Springs) was introduced in reaction to CAIR-Oklahoma’s successful resolution of a dispute over a Muslim woman’s right to wear a religiously-mandated head scarf, or hijab, in her driver’s license photo.
SEE: Muslim Woman Takes Driver’s Photo with Head Scarf (Video)
A recent Tulsa World editorial pointed out the irrelevance the legislation that bans religiously mandated headscarves in driver’s license photos. It pointed out this would have unintended consequences on other religious groups as well.
SEE: Forced Habit: Driver’s License Law Isn’t Needed (Tulsa World)
On Monday, the Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund (SALDEF) criticized Oklahoma’s House of Representatives for its attack on religious freedom.
SEE: Proposed Law Will Forbid Sikh Turbans in Driver’s License Photos
SEE ALSO: Religious Freedoms Under Attack in Oklahoma
The American Civil Liberties Union Oklahoma (ACLU-OK) office is also monitoring the bill. “The bill would violate the principles our country stands for,” said Tamya Cox ACLU-OK Legislative Counsel. “A wide range of Oklahoma’s faith communities will be affected if this bill passes including Catholic nuns, Orthodox Jews, Sikhs, Muslim women and other practitioners of faith that wear religious headwear.”
“This legislation is a violation of all Oklahomans constitutionally-protected religious freedoms,” said CAIR-OK Executive Director Razi Hashmi. “It is important for people to realize that an infringement of one group’s religious rights is a violation of the religious rights of all Americans.”
SEE: Bill in Legislature Prompts Dispute Over Muslim Women’s Headscarves
In a letter sent yesterday to Attorney General Holder, CAIR Executive Director Nihad Awad wrote in part:
“We believe both of these unnecessary and apparently unconstitutional bills would have a negative impact on the First Amendment rights of Muslims and members of other faiths in Minnesota and Oklahoma. We urge you to address the civil liberties implications of these bills and to offer a formal opinion that may be used by legislators who wish to support the Constitution and its protection of religious rights.”
A copy of Awad’s letter was sent to Loretta King, acting assistant attorney general for the U.S. Department of Justice Civil Rights Division.
According to a 2004 CAIR review, most states – with the exception of Georgia, Kentucky and New Hampshire – have addressed religious accommodation concerns. Five states – Arkansas, Mississippi, Kansas, Missouri, and Maine – recognize some religious practices, while the other 42 states have adopted more inclusive approaches to religious accommodation policies.
SEE: Religious Accommodation in Driver’s License Photographs
CAIR, America’s largest Islamic civil liberties group, has 35 offices and chapters nationwide and in Canada. Its mission is to enhance the understanding of Islam, encourage dialogue, protect civil liberties, empower American Muslims, and build coalitions that promote justice and mutual understanding.
CONTACT: CAIR-OK Executive Director Razi Hashmi, 405-248-5853, E-Mail: email@example.com; CAIR-OK Chairperson Lobna Hewedi, E-Mail: firstname.lastname@example.org; CAIR-OK Operations Coordinator Tariq Ahmad, E-Mail: email@example.com