A Christian woman in Alabama is suing for the right to be photographed for her driver’s license photo wearing a garment on her head, arguing that if Muslim women can wear head coverings for their driver’s license photos, then so can Christian women such as herself.
As The Washington Post reports, Yvonne Allen, of Auburn, Alabama, does not leave her house without a colorful scarf covering her head and she believes the New Testament commands her to do so. “If a woman does not cover her head, she might as well have her hair cut off. 1 Corinthians 11:6.”
Yvonne Allen-who believes her Christian faith mandates it-should be able to wear a headscarf. Quite simple, really. https://t.co/4MTdTttZXL
— Tamer Y. Abouzeid (@tyabouzeid) September 2, 2016
However, her religious belief that she mustn’t be seen in public without her head covered apparently does not extend to Alabama’s Department of Public Safety (DPS), the agency that issues driver’s licenses in The Yellowhammer State. As was explained to her by the clerk working the day Yvonne went to apply for her own driver’s license, she was told that she could only wear her headscarf in her photo if she were Muslim.
“Are you Muslim? Only Muslim women have the right to cover their hair in their driver’s license photos.”
As you are no doubt aware, Muslim women in some states in the U.S. have had to fight for the right to wear the hijab. That is, the traditional head covering that some Muslim traditionally wear. According to the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR), since 2005 Muslim women have been allowed to wear the hijab for their driver’s licenses in all 50 states. Some states had fought against the idea, arguing that the hijab partly obscures a woman’s face.
However, Muslim women are not the only religious group in which some women are required to cover their heads. Various Christian denominations – such as Mennonites as well as some extremely conservative evangelical groups – also require women to keep their heads covered in public.
Still, even though Muslim women are allowed to wear headscarves for driver’s license photos in accordance with the First Amendment’s right to freedom of religion, it appears that in Alabama, that same protection does not extend to Christian women. At the very least, not everyone in the employ of Alabama’s DPS seems to think so.
Alabama DPS’ rules on the issue do not specifically mention Islam or Christianity specifically, but do state that “head coverings and headgear are only acceptable due to religious beliefs and medical conditions, and even then, may not obscure any portion of the applicant’s face.”
When Yvonne Allen went to apply for her driver’s license that day, she found that, as far as the Auburn DPS office was concerned, the rules did not extend to Christian women if they want to wear a head covering if they want a driver’s license. Told to take off her headscarf or not get a driver’s license, Allen “tearfully” complied, she says.
This week, Allen filed a lawsuit with the help of the American Civil Liberties Union, saying that the requirement to take off her headscarf violated her First Amendment rights to freedom of religion.
“My faith was tested in a way that was humiliating and demeaning.”
She claims that she was not allowed to have her photograph taken in a private place behind a closed door – a compromise she offered to the clerks working that day last December – but was denied. She also claims that every time she shows her driver’s license with her uncovered head, she is embarrassed and humiliated all over again.
Do you believe that Christian women and Muslim women alike should be allowed to pose for driver’s license photos with their heads covered if their religious beliefs require it?
[Image via Shutterstock]