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An Oklahoma Battle for Religious Freedom and the Bill of Rights

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By Rep. Charles Key

A recent lawsuit filed by a Norman woman may be the most important in decades because it contends the state is violating its own Religious Freedom Act and state and federal constitutions. Kaye Beach alleges citizens are forced to provide biometric information to receive a driver’s license and are being enrolled in a national/international ID system.

What is biometrics and why should we be concerned? Biometric is defined as a “measurement of the body” using fingerprints, facial recognition, iris scanning and DNA. Currently, Oklahoma collects these types of photographs and fingerprints. Prior to 2003, non-biometric photographs were taken. Some states use biometrics with surveillance cameras to identify people in public settings. The federal government has provided grant money to support this “spying” and wants access to state DMV databases. Law-abiding Oklahomans should not have their biometric identities in the DMV database. The Beach lawsuit does not interfere with criminal databases or investigations in any way as law enforcement has the ability to obtain a warrant when necessary.

Many stories have been published detailing the federal government reading our emails, listening to our phone calls, monitoring our financial transactions and even acquiring our library records.

Technologies are now being used to obtain information from computers and smart phones – without consent or court order. Citizens’ personal information is being shared with other countries and international organizations. When government’s actions conflict with the Constitution, it is the actions of government that must change. The argument that government has broad sweeping power to protect citizens does not include destroying Constitution safeguards.

During the 2010 legislative session I proposed HB 2811, The Religious Exemption Act. It would have allowed a citizen to assert a religious exemption so that no biometric data could be kept in the DMV database. It also prohibited Social Security numbers being retained in DMV database. Those electing exemption would not be required to accept a RFID chip in their driver’s license. Licenses would use standard photos so that law enforcement could match drivers with their licenses. The goal of HB 2811 was to protect our freedom of religion, speech, assembly, and due process enumerated in the Bill of Rights while making sure that law enforcement has sufficient capability to do its job.

Finally, this issue exposes an ongoing problem in our state and national legislatures. That is the ability of legislative leaders to simply deny a bill and its author the right to have a public hearing and a recorded vote. HB 2811 was denied a hearing by the Speaker of the House in 2010. It wasn’t discussed, debated or voted on by the duly elected representatives of the people simply because a few wouldn’t let it be heard. This power to deny representatives and senators the ability to speak for the people who elected them violates the cornerstone of our system of government – representative government. It is the reason why so much is wrong with our government today.

Another bill, HJR 1004, The Open Government Act, has been submitted to address this problem. It may come as no surprise to learn that legislative leaders have thus far refused to give it a hearing. This and other similar government practices will never change until the people cause it to change.

State Representative Charles Key represents District 90

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