No digital pictures please, I’m a religious driver

An Ontario farmer who claims digital photograph databases are the work of the devil was in court Thursday, challenging a law that requires him to submit a photo to get a driver’s licence.

George Bothwell — a devout fundamentalist Christian — wants the province to exempt him from the photo requirement on the grounds it’s against his religion. But the Ontario Transportation Ministry in 2002 denied his application under a little-used exemption clause.

The exemption requires a religion to be recognized by the province and have a leader who can vouch for its beliefs in writing.

Bothwell’s lawyer, Clayton Ruby, said the government’s religious exemption is a trap. He says only 75 applications have been made since the exemption was introduced in 1986, but none have been granted.

Ruby said the government’s position on the issue was “not consistent with the constitutional right to freedom of religion.

“You’ve got to belong to an organized religion,” Ruby said. “The government gets to decide if that religion’s a good one and they recognize the ones they like and not the ones they don’t like.”

Bothwell, 58, who has recently been attending an Amish community church, said he believes the technology allows central control over people’s behaviour, which the Bible warns against.

He believes that biometrics — the use of physical identifiers such as fingerprints, retina scans and face recognition — are specifically cited in the book of Revelations as the work of agents of the devil.

But ministry lawyers were calling into question whether Bothwell’s objection was religious or based on privacy concerns.

“This case is about the applicant … wishing an ID on his own conditions,” lawyer Shaun Nakatsuru told court.” There’s no question the applicant is sincere in his religion; the question is, is the religious objection to the photo identification sincere?”

Bothwell can’t claim that his rights are being violated by being refused a driver’s licence, because driving is a privilege, not a right, Nakatsuru argued. “He may truly believe that it is evil, he may call it Satanic, but it is not a religious objection, Nakatsuru said.

The ministry argues that licence photos are used by police and other licensing authorities as a quick, accurate means of identification.

Bothwell, who drove on a licence with a polaroid photo until 1997, and took the issue to court in 2002, said his lengthy fight has been worth it, even though it has led to to the closure of his Owen Sound organic farm and manure spreading business.

“If this the digital photo is a requirement to drive, I guess I won’t drive,” he said

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(Listed if other than Religion News Blog, or if not shown above)
CBC, Canada
Oct. 21, 2004

Religion News Blog posted this on Saturday October 23, 2004.
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