House panel passes bill for Amish exemption on photo IDs

Some Indiana residents could get a religious exemption from having their photographs on state identification cards under legislation passed Wednesday in a House committee.

If the measure passes, the Bureau of Motor Vehicles could issue a photo-less ID to applicants who have sincere religious objections to having their pictures taken.

Bill sponsor Rep. Robert Morris, R-Fort Wayne, said it was created to give Indiana's Amish population — which is the third largest in the country behind Ohio's and Pennsylvania's — more access to outside businesses such as banks and pharmacies that require a state-issued ID.

Other states have passed similar legislation, including Pennsylvania, Arkansas, Missouri and Illinois, although many laws indicate that the department of motor vehicles has discretion on whether or not to issue the IDs.

Supporters of the bill said the current photo requirement conflicts with the Biblical prohibition against the making of "graven images." The bill would allow those with religious objections to instead have a digital image using facial recognition technology kept on file at the BMV.

Some Roads and Transportation Committee members expressed concerns it would increase the use of false or fake IDs and businesses would have no way of determining the ID's authenticity.

Committee chairman Rep. Ed Soliday, R-Valparaiso, said businesses would still have the same discretion they have now when deciding whether to accept an ID. Soliday also said he doubts the exemption will attract other applicants besides those with strict religious beliefs because it's so restrictive.

The photo-less ID would list the same details as a real ID, including height, weight, gender, birth date, address and a unique number. However, those with this kind of ID cannot fly commercially, enter a federal building, legally drive or vote.

"If you choose this over a driver's license, you are choosing a very restrictive lifestyle," Soliday said.

The bill will now go to the House floor.

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