From the Associated Press:
INDIANAPOLIS — An Amish couple with 13 children sued the federal government on Wednesday, accusing officials of violating their constitutional rights by insisting that they provide photographs of themselves before the Canadian wife’s request to become a permanent U.S. resident can be approved.
The Indiana couple won’t allow themselves to be photographed “for any reason,” in keeping with their Old Order Amish belief that photos of people are “graven images” prohibited by the biblical Second Commandment, the lawsuit states.
Their complaint was filed in U.S. District Court in Indianapolis as a last resort after federal officials repeatedly refused to accommodate the couple and “their sincerely held religious beliefs” and other efforts failed to resolve the dispute, it contends.
The U.S., the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, and the two agencies’ leaders are named as defendants. Both agencies said Wednesday that they don’t comment on pending litigation.
The lawsuit identifies the couple only as John and Jane Doe and contends that revealing their identities “would force them to further compromise their religious beliefs, including the prohibition against acts of self-promotion.”
They wed in 2014 after the now 44-year-old man’s first wife died from complications during childbirth, leaving him widowed with 11 children. The man and his 42-year-old second wife now have two children of their own and live with the 13 children in an Amish farming community in southern Indiana.
It’s unusual though not unheard of that Amish go to court over issues like this. As described above, the suit is “a last resort” following other attempts at resolution.
The question of mandated photo identification has been a recurring one for the Amish. While some don’t have an issue over such photos, in the past Amish have come into conflict over photo requirements for passports and firearms IDs. One media outlet even speculated on photo ID requirements potentially thwarting Amish voter turnout in 2012.
Government has worked with Amish to provide accommodation, such as in the case in 2015 of the Illinois legislature permitting fingerprint IDs for buggy drivers.
After the woman’s permanent resident application was denied, the couple contacted various government officials but to no avail. The attorney describes the only remaining options, aside from litigation, as the wife or the entire family leaving the country.
More on Amish views on photography.