Thursday, March 03, 2011

Plaintiffs Lack Standing To Challenge Procedure For Omitting Social Security Numbers In Drivers Licence Applications

In Baer-Stefanov v. White, 2011 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 19139 (ND IL, Feb. 25, 2011), an Illinois federal district court dismissed for lack of standing a challenge to provisions in Illinois' drivers license law that set up procedures for obtaining a religious exemption so an applicant can obtain a license without furnishing a social security number.  Plaintiffs' personal religious beliefs prevent them from using social security numbers because they consider the numbers the mark of the beast prohibited by Revelations 13. However plaintiffs were informed by an attorney in the Secretary of State's office that an exemption would be granted only if an applicant submitted a state form signed by a religious leader who attested that use of a social security number was barred by the beliefs of  his or her religious sect and that the applicant was a member of that sect. Plaintiffs never actually applied for a license because their religious sect leaves beliefs regarding social security numbers to the individual consciences of members. Instead plaintiffs sued alleging that the limitation on the availability of the exemption violated their free exercise and equal protection rights. The court held that because plaintiffs never applied for a religious exemption, and thus have not been denied one, their injury is only threatened, not actual. Had they applied, the Secretary of State might have exercised discretion to treat individual religious convictions the same as beliefs of an entire sect.