Virginia To Offer Amish & Mennonites Non-Photo IDs

What if you couldn’t buy medicine, ship packages, or even give blood – all because you lacked acceptable identification?

Amish and Mennonites in Virginia who have been dealing with issues like this will have an alternative moving forward. The state has approved photo-free cards for those who object to conventional IDs.

This will resolve issues that the commonwealth’s Plain population has had doing business and even carrying out everyday tasks. From

“We see a photo as a graven image, which is forbidden in the scriptures,” says a buggy maker who lives in a Mennonite community of just under 1,000 outside of Harrisonburg. He requested that his name not be used because, as he put it, “we try not to stand out; we try to blend in.”

While they’ve lived without IDs here for more than 100 years, it’s increasingly created problems.

The Rockingham resident said on a recent visit to Walmart, a clerk wouldn’t sell him cold medicine. He said another member of the community ran into issues trying to get UPS to pick up a package from the hardware store. And he said his uncle recently had a run-in at a major appliance store when he tried to write a check for a new refrigerator. (The community practices “plainness” but does not totally eschew modern technology.)

It goes on and on, he said: “We can’t even donate blood.”

Here is what a non-photo ID might look like:

The article states there are a total of 13 states currently offer non-photo IDs, with Pennsylvania leading the pack, having issued over 13,000 IDs.

I suspect there may be more than 13 however, as one source (no longer online) claiming that number of “non-photo driver’s license” states dates to 2005, and at least one other state has moved to offer a non-photo option since then. A driver’s license is not the same as a basic ID card, but I suspect this is where the figure came from.

If you’re curious, here are the 13 cited states which offer the non-photo driver’s license option. Most have Amish populations:

  • Arkansas
  • Indiana
  • Kansas
  • Minnesota
  • Missouri
  • Nebraska
  • New Jersey
  • North Dakota
  • Oregon
  • Pennsylvania
  • Tennessee
  • Washington
  • Wisconsin

The Virginia DMV has estimated approximately 2,000 residents would qualify and be likely to apply for the IDs. The IDs may come with a security question, though fraud has apparently been rare in other states.

The Virginia Mercury site also shared a map via the VA DMV showing counties where Amish and Mennonites live in the state. The Amish are found in all of the below counties except Augusta, Rockingham, Buckingham and Cumberland.

Jurisdictions have solved this issue in different ways in the past. For example, Amish in Illinois received the option for fingerprint-based IDs several years ago (unlisted above). Not all Amish object to photo IDs however, and this is generally going to be something seen in the plainer groups.

The IDs will cost $275,000 to produce. That figure struck me as rather high for 2000 pieces of plastic. It doesn’t seem like a big redesign is required, especially compared to the images of standard VA ID cards I found online (compare the one at right to the above). But maybe there is some additional security technology involved, or some other hidden costs there.

Because of the increased cost, they will cost $80 apiece for applicants to purchase. The DMV estimates that this will fully cover the cost to produce them. If there are only 2,000 potential buyers, however, that seems to come up a bit short. Maybe this factors in future purchases as well?

Numbers aside, the state’s Plain population will surely appreciate this accommodation, which will allow them to more freely operate in the economy and go about their daily lives.

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    1. "We try to blend in."

      I smiled when the Amish man who requested not to be identified was quoted as
      saying “we try to blend in.”

      1. Carol Mary


        Me too 🙂

      2. I didn’t catch the irony on first read. Thanks for pointing that out Jim:)

    2. Rjr

      Ohio also has non photo id

      1. Steve B

        Non Photto Ids

        Thanks for the comment, Rjr. After looking over the list of states who have provided this service, I was at a lose to see Ohio not listed. Especially with the it’s relatively large Amish and Mennonite population. Your information answers my concern.

    3. George

      Amish and Mennonites photo I. D.

      The questions is if there’s no photo I. D. how can one know that the person without a Photo I. D. is the actual person showing the I.D.?

      1. Sandra K

        Alternatives to pictures

        Fingerprints— I think California has this in addition to a picture in thecID. More high-tech would be retina scans, but I don’t see a store doing that any time soon.

    4. Will

      Graven Image

      No graven image ? Thats’ what they say but ask them about paper money . Doesn’t it have a graven image on it but that,s O.K. !

      1. George

        Amish and Mennonitesnon photo i.d.

        They probably don’t care if there’s an image on paper money since those people shown on the money are not Amish…

        1. Will

          Doesn’t say any in the bible about who the graven image is . Just graven image ,period !

    5. Steve B

      Question to Will?

      Will, what is your point? And if I’m reading your post incorrectly, I apologize ahead of time. Are you saying you can read this full article and only come up with some sort of question based on a side comment from one of those interviewed? These sorts of discussions drive me silly mad. I can search the Bible, Koran, Torah, anything, and isolate any “Sacred Scripture” I choose to justify what I demand be true. I just really do not see the point. The Amish and Mennonite Communities simply ask for some sort of privacy and respect concerning their modesty concerning photographs. Not so difficult, unless you’re on a mission to prove they have a hidden agenda. They live in our communities. And unless we all are willing to go back and adapt to the barter system, Cash is the needed to make daily transactions.

      1. Will

        Maybe I know a bit more than you think . Might surprise you I am Amish and even with that said I dont’t have to abide by everything the deacon and the Bishop are trying to make us believe !

    6. Steve B


      Indeed you do know more than I about Amish culture. Well said, and my apologies for assuming things I shouldn’t.

    7. Walter Boomsma

      Broad brushes... narrow minds?

      No accusations inferred by the comment title… just a suggestion that both lead to “not thinking.” All generalities are ultimately false. Narrow mindedness also can lead to not thinking. Tolerance and balance are becoming too rare. Congratulations to those states willing to exhibit both by creating non-photo I’d programs. I am not sure it matters why the Amish refuse photos. Oops, that might be a generality. I understand some Amish permit photos as long as they are not posed and/or full face on. Perhaps we could substitute our need to be right with a need to understand… and if we cannot understand, permit—or accept—or allow.

      It is interesting that the Amish do not try to convince (or force) us “English” to adopt their ways. The opposite often seems less true. So non-photo ids feels like step in the right direction.

    8. Yoder in Ohio

      I’m Old Order Amish. I have an Ohio non-driver photo ID and my picture in my passport. Not every group or community draws their lines in the same place!

      1. This is one of the most overlooked but essential points when people discuss the Amish.