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Baer-Stefanov v. White

October 22, 2009

TALITHA BAER-STEFANOV, PRISCILLA BAER, MATTHEW BAER, AND JOSHUA BAER, 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 18 and 24, are eligible for and desire to obtain Illinois driver's licenses. 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 him. For the reasons stated below, the motion to dismiss is denied.

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-Stefanov (24 years old), Priscilla Baer (22 years old), Matthew Baer (20 years old) and Joshua Baer (18 years old). 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 SAC, the plaintiffs allege that their individual religious beliefs prohibit them from using a social security number as a personal identifier in violation of Revelation 13:16-17.

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, [and] 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, entitled "Religious Exemption for Social Security Numbers," 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.

c) Personnel at the Driver Services Facility shall complete the exception form, attach it to the application for a driver's license, and mail it to the Director of Driver Services, 2701 S. Dirksen Parkway, Springfield, Illinois 62723. The exception form shall contain the applicant's full name and address, including the county. It shall also contain the applicant's driver's license or identification card number. This information shall appear as it was furnished on the application.

d) The application and exception form shall indicate 000-00-0000 for the social security number.

e) The applicant shall be issued a 90-day temporary driver's license and a receipt if all other requirements have been met.

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.

g) The affidavit shall be sent to the Director of Driver Services, 2701 S. Dirksen Parkway, Springfield, Illinois 62723. The Department will contact the religious leader to verify the information. The affidavit shall be attached to the original application and examined for compliance with this Section.

h) The applicant shall be notified in writing by the Director of Driver Services that the application has been approved or rejected because the applicant failed to comply with the provisions of this Section.

i) If approved, the applicant shall return to the Driver Services Facility with the letter of approval receipt to be issued a driver's license with a distinctive number assigned by the Department in lieu of the social security number. If rejected, the applicant shall be notified of the right to request an administrative hearing pursuant to 92 Ill. Adm. Code 1001 and IVC Section 2-118.

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." SAC 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 at several drivers' services facilities, described above, due to a purported lack of availability.

In their SAC, 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 and their Fourteenth Amendment right to equal protection. The plaintiffs also allege a claim under the Illinois Religious Freedom Restoration Act, 775 ILCS 35/1 et seq. The defendant moves to dismiss each count.

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 ...


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