Florida appeals court upholds ban of Muslim veil in driver’s license photo

DAYTONA BEACH — A Muslim woman who wanted to wear a veil in her driver’s license photo must follow a Florida law that requires a picture of her full face, according to a state appeals court.

The Fifth District Court of Appeal upheld a 2003 ruling by an Orlando judge that Sultaana Freeman‘s right to free exercise of religion would not be burdened by the photo requirement.

“We recognized the tension created as a result of choosing between following the dictates of one’s religion and the mandates of secular law,” Appellate Judge Emerson R. Thompson Jr. wrote in Friday’s 15-page opinion. “However, as long as the laws are neutral and generally applicable to the citizenry, they must be obeyed.”

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A message left early Wednesday for Freeman’s attorney, Howard Marks, was not immediately returned.

The Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles issued Freeman, 38, of Winter Park, a license in 2001 showing her veiled with only her eyes visible, but later suspended it.

Freeman sued the state, claiming the suspension infringed upon her First Amendment rights. She lost her civil lawsuit in 2003 when Circuit Judge Janet C. Thorpe agreed with authorities that letting people show only their eyes would undermine efforts to stop terrorists.

Gov. Jeb Bush signed legislation in 2003 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.”


(Listed if other than Religion News Blog, or if not shown above)
Associated Press, via the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, USA
Sep. 7, 2005
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Religion News Blog posted this on Wednesday September 7, 2005.
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