Tuesday, December 04, 2018

Religious Opposition To Furnishing Social Security Number Fails

In Ricks v. State of Idaho Contractors Board, (ID App., Dec. 3, 2018), an Idaho appeals court dismissed free exercise challenges to the state's requirement that an applicant for a contractor's license furnish his Social Security number.  Federal child support enforcement laws require states to collect Social Security numbers as part of applications for professional licenses if the state wishes to be eligible for certain federal grants.  George Ricks refused to furnish his Social Security number because of his religious belief that Social Security numbers are a form of the Biblical "mark of the beast."

The court rejected on pre-emption grounds Ricks argument that the requirement violates Idaho's Free Exercise of Religion Protected Act (FERPA):
 [T]he operation of FERPA, in the context of the cooperative endeavor between Congress and the Idaho Legislature, does impede 42 U.S.C. § 666(a)(13)’s objective of improving child support enforcement effectiveness by exempting individuals from I.C. § 73-122’s and I.C. § 54-5210’s requirement of providing social security numbers on professional license applications. In other words, an exemption granted by FERPA would make it more difficult to locate a parent who may have outstanding child support obligations through the Federal Parent Locator Service database. Because this amounts to a direct conflict with Congress’s intent in passing 42 U.S.C. § 666(a)(13), 42 U.S.C. § 666(a)(13) preempts FERPA in this context.
The court rejected Ricks' federal RFRA argument because no federal defendant was named. Finally it rejected his First Amendment and state constitution free exercise claims finding that the laws at issue are neutral laws of general applicability. The court also released a summary statement of its holding.