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Baer v. White

June 3, 2009

TALITHA BAER, PRISCILLA BAER, MATTHEW BAER, AND JOSHUA BAER, BY HIS FATHER AND NEXT FRIEND, PLAINTIFFS,
v.
JESSE WHITE, SUED IN HIS OFFICIAL CAPACITY AS THE SECRETARY OF STATE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Blanche M. Manning United States District Judge

Judge Blanche Manning

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

The plaintiffs, four individuals between the ages of 17 and 23, are eligible for and desire to obtain Illinois drivers' licenses. However, it is their position that their individual religious beliefs prevent them from providing social security numbers to the defendant, Jesse White, who is being sued in his official capacity as the Secretary of State of Illinois. In their amended complaint, the plaintiffs allege that the Illinois statute and regulation governing the issuance of driver's licenses to persons who object to providing their social security numbers is unconstitutional and violates the Illinois Religious Freedom Restoration Act, 775 ILCS 35/1 et seq. The defendant has moved to dismiss all of the claims against it. For the reasons stated below, the motion to dismiss is granted in part and denied without prejudice in part.

I. Facts

The following well-pleaded facts are accepted as true for purposes of this motion to dismiss. The plaintiffs are four siblings: Talitha Baer (23 years old), Priscilla Baer (21 years old), Matthew Baer (19 years old) and Joshua Baer (17 years old), who is suing through his father and next friend, David Baer. They desire to obtain Illinois state driver's permits and licenses but have not applied for them due to the fact that their religious beliefs prohibit them from using social security numbers as personal identifiers. In their response to the motion to dismiss, the plaintiffs explain that they believe that Revelation 13:16-17 prohibits them from using a social security number as a personal identifier because it is equivalent to a "mark," "name," or "number" of the "beast," with the beast being, according to them, a government leader.

Illinois law requires that a person applying for a driver's license provide a social security number on his or her application. Specifically, section 6-106 of the Illinois Vehicle Code states in relevant part:

Every application shall state the legal name, social security number. . . of the applicant. . . . The Secretary of State may in his discretion substitute a federal tax number in lieu of a social security number, or he may instead assign an additional distinctive number in lieu thereof, where an applicant is prohibited by bona fide religious convictions from applying or is exempt from applying for a social security number. The Secretary of State shall, however, determine which religious orders or sects have such bona fide religious convictions.

In addition, Title 92 of the Illinois Administrative Code § 1063.63 states in relevant part that:

a) Members of religious groups whose faith will not permit them to obtain social security numbers may request the social security number be omitted on their driver's license application.

b) The applicant for a special religious number shall state in the person's own handwriting on an exception form, supplied by the Secretary of State at a Driver Services Facility, that he or she is a member of a certain religious group and that the person wants to apply for a driver's license without applying for a social security card. The applicant shall affix his or her signature immediately after the statement on the exception form. . . .

f) The applicant shall sign an affidavit, supplied by the Secretary of State, stating that the use of a social security number on a driver's license file is against his or her religious convictions and stating the reasons why the applicant holds these beliefs. The affidavit shall also contain a statement from his/her religious leader or minister attesting that the use of a social security number is against the religious convictions of the applicant's faith. The submitted affidavit shall be notarized.

According to the plaintiffs, "though [their] religious order neither promotes or [sic] encourages voluntary participation in the federal Social Security program, it does not prohibit such; rather, it respects matters of individual conscience on such issues." Am. Compl. at ¶¶ 3(2), 4(2), 5(2), 6(2). They further allege that "[t]he Defendant has indicated in his response to third party Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests that applicants, such as this Plaintiff, will not have consideration for [their] individual beliefs." Id. at 3(5), 4(5), 5(5), 6(5). The plaintiffs further allege that they were denied access to an exception form, described above, due to a purported lack of availability.

In their amended complaint, the plaintiffs allege that the Illinois statute and regulation governing the issuance of driver's licenses to persons who object to providing their social security numbers is unconstitutional in that it violates their First Amendment right to freedom of religion, their Fourteenth Amendment right to freedom to travel, their Fourteenth Amendment Right to equal protection, and their Fourteenth Amendment right to due process. The plaintiffs also allege a claim under the Illinois Religious Freedom Restoration Act, 775 ILCS 35/1 et seq.

II. Standard on Motion to Dismiss

Rule 12(b)(6) permits a motion to dismiss a complaint for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. To state such a claim, the complaint need only contain a "short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2). As noted by the Seventh Circuit:

The Supreme Court has interpreted that language to impose two easy-to-clear hurdles. First, the complaint must describe the claim in sufficient detail to give the defendant "fair notice of what the ... claim is and the grounds upon which it rests." Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 1964-65 (2007)(quoting Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 47, 78 S.Ct. 99, 2 L.Ed.2d 80 (1957)) (alteration in Bell Atlantic ). Second, its allegations must plausibly suggest that the plaintiff has a right to relief, raising that possibility above a "speculative level"; if it does not, the plaintiff pleads itself out of court. Bell Atlantic, 127 S.Ct. at 1965, 1973 n.14.

E.E.O.C. v. Concentra Health Services, Inc., 496 F.3d 773, 776 (7th Cir. 2007). See also Killingsworth v. HSBC Bank Nevada, N.A., 507 F.3d 614, 618-19 (7th Cir. 2007)(observing that Supreme Court in Bell Atlantic "retooled federal pleading standards" such that a complaint must now contain "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.").

On a motion to dismiss under Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6), the court accepts the allegations in the complaint as true, viewing all facts, as well as any inferences reasonably drawn therefrom, in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. See Marshall-Mosby v. Corporate Receivables, Inc., 205 F.3d 323, 326 (7th Cir. 2000). "While a complaint attacked by a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss does not need detailed factual allegations, a plaintiff's obligation to provide the 'grounds' of his 'entitle[ment] to relief' requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do." Bell Atlantic, 127 S.Ct. at 1964-65 (citations omitted).

III. Analysis

As an initial matter, the plaintiffs do not state whether their constitutional challenges are facial or as-applied. In light of the plaintiffs' failure to address the issue and the fact that the plaintiffs have not alleged that they have had any application for an exemption denied or rejected, the court construes the plaintiffs' challenges to the relevant statute and rule to be facial. Kraimer v. City of Schofield, 342 F. Supp. 2d 807, 815-16 (W.D. Wis. 2004)(concluding that any as-applied ...


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