A civil rights group is suing Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White over a rule it claims violates people’s religious rights at driver’s license facilities across the state.
The issue: Anyone wearing a religious head covering while taking a driver’s license photo must sign a form saying they may lose their license if they are later seen in public not wearing a head covering, according to a lawsuit filed Monday in federal court by CAIR-Chicago.
CAIR-Chicago Executive Director Ahmed Rehab said the rule restricts people’s religious rights and civil liberties, and fails to accommodate the variety of religious practices.
“This has been an issue since the beginning ... The state should not be in the business of saying what religious practice should look like,” Rehab told the Chicago Sun-Times.
The lawsuit’s plaintiff, Maryjane Bicksler, said she felt pressured to sign the form last year at a driver’s license facility in Rockford, the lawsuit states. She now fears that if she takes off her hijab in public for any reason, she will violate the rule and risk losing her license.
Part of the issue is that a person might temporarily remove their religious head covering in public for a reason the Illinois rule does not consider an exception. Those instances include medical duress, excessive heat or simple discomfort, the lawsuit states.
“There are a host of instances in which religious headwear may need to be removed while in public, and people should not be concerned that doing so will jeopardize their future ability to drive,” Phil Robertson, litigation director for CAIR-Chicago, said in a statement.
Secretary of State Jesse White’s office did not reply Monday evening to requests for comment.
The rule in question is Illinois Administrative Code Title 92, which states driver’s photographed with head coverings must sign an “acknowledgement that, if the Director of the Driver Services Department obtains evidence showing the driver does not wear religious head dressings at all times while in public, unless circumstances require the removal of the head dressing, the driver’s license may be cancelled.”
The rule does allow a driver to remove a “head dressing in public when removal is necessary (such as for a medical examination or a visit to a hair dresser or barber).”
The lawsuit claims the rule violates the Illinois Human Rights Act, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act and the First Amendment.