As Obama stumps for gun control in Chicago, an interesting case has been filed in an effort to protect both religious liberty and the Second Amendment.  An Amish man from Pennsylvania attempted to purchase a gun via legal channels and was denied because he did not have a photo id, and he did not have that photo id because of his religious beliefs.

The Amish in Lancaster Country believe that a photograph of themselves is the equivalent of a disallowed “graven image” and thus refuse to allow themselves to be photographed.  This is a religious exemption/exception that has been readily acknowledged and accepted by state and local government who have issued photoless ids and drivers’ licenses to Amish people.

The Washington Post reports:

In a suit that brings together the Second Amendment and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), an Amish man filed a federal lawsuit in Pennsylvania last week because he wants to buy a gun without the required photo ID — and because getting that photo ID would violate his religious beliefs.

Andrew Hertzler, according to the suit, is from Lancaster County, Pa., and is an “active and practicing” member of the community; his “parents, grandparents, and siblings are all active and practicing Amish”; and he “has a sincerely held religious belief that prevents him from knowingly and willingly having his photograph taken and stored.”

“The Amish faith prohibits an individual from having his/her photograph taken,” the suit read. “This belief stems from the Biblical passage Exodus 20:4, which mandates that ‘You shall not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth,’ as well as the Christian belief in humility.”

But Hertzler’s humility caused a problem when, in June, he tried to buy a gun from a Pennsylvania dealer “using a non-photo, state-issued identification.” This wasn’t enough, according to the dealer — Hertzler was told he needed a picture ID.

The Firearm Industry Consulting Group (FICG), a division of Prince Law Offices, P. C., filed

a complaint against the United States and numerous other individuals in the United States District Court, Middle District of Pennsylvania on behalf of Mr. Hertzler, an Amish man, who is being denied his “core right” to purchase and possess a handgun for purposes of self-defense in his home, because federal law requires that he produce identification, bearing a photograph, which violates his core religious beliefs.

Specifically, 18 U.S.C. § 922(t)(1)(c) requires that a Federal Firearms Licensee only transfer a firearm to an individual who produces “a valid identification document (as defined in section 1028(d) of this title) of the transferee containing a photograph of the transferee.” As Mr. Hertzler’s sincerely held religious beliefs preclude him from knowingly and willingly having his photograph taken, Mr. Hertzler is unable to meet the requirements of Section 922(t); thereby, requiring him to either forego his constitutional right to keep and bear arms in defense of himself and his home or violate his religious tenants.

Even Pennsylvania law acknowledges Mr. Hertzler’s religious beliefs and provides for non-photo ID and drivers licenses and for the ability of an individual to purchase a firearm with non-photo ID, pursuant to 18 Pa.C.S. § 6111(b)(2). However, federal law fails to include such an exception, in violation of the Second Amendment and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.


This will be an interesting case to follow for many reasons, not the least of which are the parallels to the contested regulations stemming from ObamaCare that demand that citizens violate their religious beliefs in order to meet the requirements of executive mandates and regulations.

The recurring tension amongst individual liberty, inherent and inalienable rights, religious freedom, and the federal government’s ability to override and undermine each seems a growing cause for concern in recent years.


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