Despite Real ID, WV licensees may exclude photos from licenses

Religious fundamentalists in West Virginia are now being exempted from getting their digital photos emblazoned on their driver's licenses, after objections over carrying around what they conceive as the biblical "mark of the beast."

Although objecting West Virginians will still be required to have their license photos taken at a state Department of Motor Vehicles office, their photos will be removed from its computer immediately afterward, with the state retaining hard copies of the pictures at its main office.

But like other drivers, the fundamentalists will be required to keep their birth dates and driving records stored on the state's computer system, according to an account in West Virginia's Charleston Gazette today.

So far, only about a dozen people -- consisting of a local pastor and some of his followers -- have applied for special consideration for digital photos.

These folks purport to believe that digital photos on state drivers' licenses could spell the start of the "mark of the beast." In describing the "beast system," the Bible's Book of Revelations cautions that numbering people signifies "the arrival of the Antichrist."

The drivers license issue came up after one of the followers, a local teacher, refused to enforce school rules requiring students to wear bar-coded ID badges because he felt that practice violated his religious beliefs.

In 2006, the teacher, Phil Hudok, met with West Virginia DMV Commissioner Joseph Cicchirillo -- along with pastor Butch Paugh and twelve others -- about compliance requirements around the Federal Real ID Act of 2005, which will ultimately force states to share information among themselves about licensed drivers.

Yet although it was passed in 2005, the Real ID Act has not really taken effect yet. As of April of this year, all 50 states had received extensions beyond the original compliance deadline of May 11, 2008, either because they'd applied for extensions or were simply granted extensions without soliciting them.

West Virginia's DMV commissioner said he views the exemption of the religious fundamentalists from digital photos on drivers licenses to be merely a "pilot project." So far, the state has committed only one camera to the pilot, according to Cicchirillo.

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