Nothing is sacred about your religion when it comes to getting a state identification card without a photo. The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation offers ID cards for those with religious objections to being photographed. The Amish and certain sects of the Mennonite community are among those who object to having their photos taken because of their faith. To get a nonphoto ID for religious reasons, applicants must answer a series of 18 questions that delve deeply into their faiths and other personal information. Now that Pennsylvania has passed one of the nation’s toughest voter ID laws to prevent voter fraud, the scope of the questions is drawing criticism.
The first item on PennDOT’s form asks applicants to “describe your religion.” It is followed by more questions that devout followers might struggle to answer, and some that inquire about the lives of family members. How many members are there of your religion? How many congregations? What’s the process by which you came to the religion? What religious practices do you observe? Do other family members hold the same religious beliefs? Submitting that form, once notarized, is not enough. Applicants must fill out another form. If they lack proof of identification, yet another form must be completed before a nonphoto ID is issued. The ID is valid for four years, and the renewal process is simpler. Going through this process is essential if those who hold religious objections to being photographed want to vote. Anyone who wants to vote must show identification in the November election.
Two Republican senators, both of whom supported the voter ID law, have expressed concerns about what it takes to get a nonphoto ID. State Sen. Mike Folmer, R-Lebanon County, said the questions seem intrusive, and he wonders why all that information is needed. “They are going to be keeping them from the polls, keeping American citizens from the polls,” Folmer said. “That’s what I’m concerned about. That form is an overreach in my opinion,” said Sen. Mike Brubaker, R-Lancaster County. “I don’t want persons for religious reasons not to have a photo taken, to go through a process that is any more cumbersome than absolutely necessary to get the proper identification to be able to vote.”