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Talitha Baer-Stefanov, Priscilla Baer, Matthew Baer, and Joshua v. Jesse White

February 25, 2011

TALITHA BAER-STEFANOV, PRISCILLA BAER, MATTHEW BAER, AND JOSHUA BAER, PLAINTIFFS,
v.
JESSE WHITE, IN HIS OFFICIAL CAPACITY AS SECRETARY STATE OF ILLINOIS, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Feinerman

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Plaintiffs Priscilla Baer, Matthew Baer, and Joshua Baer-Talitha Baer-Stefanov, originally a plaintiff, has voluntarily dismissed her claims-brought this lawsuit against Defendant Jesse White, Secretary of State of Illinois, alleging that certain driver's license application procedures employed by the Secretary violate the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment, the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, and the Illinois Religious Freedom Restoration Act, 775 ILCS 35/1 et seq. ("Illinois RFRA"). The case is dismissed without prejudice for want of subject matter jurisdiction because the Baers lack standing to pursue their claims.

Illinois law ordinarily requires driver's license applicants to provide a social security number, but recognizes an exception for religious objectors:

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.

625 ILCS 5/6-106(b). The statute does not clearly say whether the Secretary may allow exemptions only on a religion-by-religion or sect-by-sect basis-that is, only if the religion or sect prohibits all adherents applying for a social security number-or also where an applicant's personal faith (but not her religion or sect generally) imposes that prohibition. The implementing regulation promulgated by the Secretary, however, suggests in subsection (f) that an exemption may be granted based on an applicant's personal faith, so long as the applicant and her religious leader attest that using a social security number violates the applicant's convictions and beliefs:

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 . .

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 . . 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 ...


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