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Mennonites leaving over photo requirement

  At the same time we are turning Amerika into a police state by making the drivers license an "internal passport" we are also flushing the First Amendment down the toliet and forcing people to change their religious beleifs to comply with the police state laws.

Source

By Alan Scher Zagier
ASSOCIATED PRESS

12:50 p.m. March 21, 2007

HUNTSVILLE, Mo. – The grocer, the butcher, a cabinet maker and several other members of the town's Mennonite community are planning to move to Arkansas over a Missouri requirement that all drivers be photographed if they want a license. The Mennonites – a plain-living sect whose members are similar to the Amish, but usually more worldly – say the 2004 law conflicts with the Biblical prohibition against the making of “graven images.”

“We want to respect our government. We're not trying to fight them. But we still have our beliefs,” said Ervin Kropf, a bearded, overall-wearing grocer whose market draws customers from miles around for the fresh milk, brown eggs and spices supplied by his fellow Mennonites. Kropf said he is looking to sell his store. He said if he cannot find a buyer, he will stay in Missouri but rely on someone else to bring in his supplies, because he will not be able to hold a driver's license without agreeing to a photo.

Around Huntsville, community members say more than a dozen families altogether are preparing to move south to Arkansas, where state law offers a religious exemption to the photo requirement. Other Mennonite enclaves near Rolla, Springfield and Vandalia are facing a similar dilemma.

Missouri had an exemption similar to Arkansas' for more than 30 years. That changed in the security crackdown after Sept. 11. Now, those who object to the photo requirement can have their pictures left off their licenses. But the photos must remain on file with the state.

Many Mennonites in Missouri find that acceptable and plan to stay put. But “there are a bunch of us who don't want to do that,” Kropf said.

Maura Browning, a spokeswoman for the Missouri Department of Revenue, which oversees driver's licenses, said that while her agency is sympathetic, “we are the administrator, not the creator, of state law.”

Some community members call their Mennonite neighbors peaceful, hardworking taxpayers wrongly ensnared in the government's war on terror.

“This whole business of homeland security is a farce,” said Joel Hartman, a University of Missouri-Columbia professor of rural sociology. “These people are no threat whatsoever to the larger society.”

Hartman estimated the combined Amish and Mennonite population in Missouri at 6,000 to 7,000. That number includes those who drive and don't object to the state law.

Several families have already left the state, with others waiting to sell their homes and businesses, said Mark Price, Randolph County recorder. Those planning to leave Huntsville include a cabinet maker, a butcher and an excavator, he said.

“They are pillars of the community,” Price said.

Leo Kempf, a Mennonite butcher, said he has reluctantly decided to uproot his family and move. “It's something you don't take lightly,” he said.

Unlike the Amish and members of some other Mennonite sects, Kropf, Kempf and their neighbors use telephones and drive cars, though they paint the vehicles black to make them less showy. They eschew radio, TVs and computers and dress in simple garb – men in overalls and black shoes, women in ankle-length dresses and head coverings. The men typically wear beards.

Community members are intensely private; many politely declined to speak with a reporter for this story.

“These people do not have a strong emotional and psychological attachment to the land that many of us do in society. If things become unacceptable in one area, they'll move to another,” said Hartman, who grew up in a Pennsylvania Mennonite community.

Pennsylvania and Ohio – two of the states with the nation's largest Mennonite populations – continue to license drivers whose religious beliefs forbid photos. But other states, including California and Kentucky, have joined Missouri in recent years in eliminating the exemption.

There are an estimated 500,000 Mennonites in the U.S., according to Donald Kraybill, a professor and a fellow at the Young Center for Anabaptist and Pietist Studies at Elizabethtown College in Pennsylvania.

The Missouri Mennonites' opposition to having their photos taken for their driver's licenses put them in the minority among members of their faith nationwide, said Steve Scott, a research assistant at the Young Center. “Usually, if you accept a car, you would accept a photograph,” Scott said.

The effect of the nationwide crackdown upon Amish and Mennonites is not limited to driver's licenses.

Amish who have been able to cross the border into Canada and Mexico for medical treatment or to visit relatives without passports will no longer have that option starting in January. So those who object to having their photos taken for their passports will effectively be unable to leave the country.

And in Pennsylvania, a state law requiring photo identification to purchase guns has prompted many Amish who hunt to hire non-Amish neighbors to buy guns for them, according to Kraybill.

source

Mennonites To Leave Missouri Over Photo ID
Religious Group To Move To Arkansas

POSTED: 5:33 pm CDT March 19, 2007
UPDATED: 5:53 pm CDT March 19, 2007

HUNTSVILLE, Mo. -- Ervin Kropf's loyal customers have been known to drive more than 100 miles to buy fresh milk, brown eggs and bulk spices from his Mennonite country market. But soon, the stocked shelves that draw business from as far away as Kansas City and St. Louis could be mostly barren.

Kropf's fellow Mennonites are leaving Missouri as state officials enforce a 2004 law that requires all residents to have their pictures taken for drivers licenses -- a rule that conflicts with the Mennonites' belief in a Biblical prohibition against "graven images" that keep community members from having their picture taken.

Near Huntsville, more than a dozen families in this central Missouri enclave are preparing to move south to Arkansas, where state law still offers a religious exemption to obtain driver's licenses without photos. Other Mennonite enclaves near Rolla, Springfield and Vandalia are facing similar ultimatums.

Missouri allowed a similar exemption for more than 30 years. That changed in the security crackdown after the 2001 terrorist attacks, as the state sought to prevent identity theft.

"We want to respect our government," Kropf said. "We're not trying to fight them. But we still have our beliefs."

Kropf is soliciting offers to buy his store. If he can't find a buyer, he'll remain in Missouri but will have to rely on an outsider to haul back supplies. Some customers have broken down in tears at that prospect.

Like the old order Amish, many Mennonites adhere strictly to the "graven images" rule. So it's not enough that Missouri's law, which allows the state to keep photos off licenses but requires the images to remain on file with government officials, offers something of a compromise.

Some Mennonites elsewhere in Missouri have agreed to that compromise, said Kropf, but he and members of his church remain opposed.

"There are a bunch of us who don't want to do that," he said.

The change has drawn criticism from community members who call their Mennonite neighbors peaceful, hardworking taxpayers wrongly ensnared in the government's war on terror.

"This whole business of homeland security is a farce," said Joel Hartman, a University of Missouri-Columbia professor of rural sociology. "These people are no threat whatsoever to the larger society."

The Mennonites of Randolph County have ingrained themselves and their small businesses into the community, said Mark Price, the county recorder. Among those planning to leave are a cabinet maker, excavator and meat processor.

"They are pillars of the community," Price said.

Unlike the Amish and some other Mennonite sects, Kropf and his neighbors use telephones and drive cars, though they paint the vehicles black. They eschew radio, TVs and computers and dress in simple garb. Men are seen in overalls and black shoes, women in ankle-length dresses, covered arms and head scarves.

Several families have already left the state, with others waiting to sell their homes and businesses. But the displaced Missourians' stay in Arkansas -- at least as licensed drivers -- could be short-lived.

A federal law known as the Real ID Act will set a national standard for driver's licenses while linking state motor vehicle offices in a central database.

The proposed law has drawn a firestorm of criticism from privacy advocates and some evangelical Christians who call the standard a precursor to a national ID card.

States are also balking at the costs and complication of overhauling their licensing systems. The Missouri House of Representatives recently voted overwhelmingly to oppose the requirements and prohibit state agencies from implementing them.

And Congress recently postponed the law's effective date by 18 months, until Dec. 31, 2009.

A Department of Homeland Security spokesman said that the proposed law still allows states to offer the religious exemption for photos. But residents of any states that didn't comply with that standard would not be allowed to board airplanes or enter federal buildings, according to the current proposal.

Hartman, who grew up in a Pennsylvania Mennonite community and has studied Amish society for decades, said that many of those faced with moving from their homes will respond with stoicism, not resistance.

"These people do not have a strong emotional and psychological attachment to the land that many of us do in society," he said. "If things become unacceptable in one area, they'll move to another."