Oct 26, 2015

Amish man challenges photo ID requirement to buy firearm as violation of his religious beliefs

John Beauge
October 23, 2015

WILLIAMSPORT — An Amish man living in Northumberland County whose religious beliefs prevent him from being photographed is challenging the photo identification requirement to purchase a firearm.

Andrew Hertzler claims in a suit filed Friday in U.S. Middle District Court that the requirement is a violation of his constitutional right to possess a firearm and of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

Defendants are the federal government, U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch, FBI Director James B. Comey and Thomas E. Brandon and Christopher C. Shaffer, acting director and assistant director of public and government affairs, respectively, for the Bureau of Alcohol, Firearms and Explosives.

Hertzler states he is an active member of the Amish faith and community in Lancaster County with a sincerely held religious belief that prohibits photographs being taken of him.

The suit states Hertzler on June 2 was not allowed to purchase a gun for self-defense purposes at a Pennsylvania licensed firearms dealer with his state-issued non-photo ID.

He is not prohibited by state or federal law from possessing a firearm, he notes.
Attached to the court complaint is a letter from Shaffer stating the ATF does not provide any exceptions to the photo ID requirement. Hertzel's attempt to work through the office of U.S. Sen. Patrick J. Toomey also was unsuccessful.

That has left him with the choice of foregoing his constitutional right to keep and bear arms in defense of himself or violate his religion, the suit states.

He could obtain a federal firearms license to deal in guns without a photograph, but he has no desire to do that, the complaint notes Hertzler contends the use of the state's non-photo ID supplemented with other documentation should be sufficient to allow him to purchase a gun.

Hertzler seeks a permanent injunction to prevent the defendants from enforcing the photo regulations against those who claim a religious exemption.
It also seeks a declaration that the photo regulation and related policies and procedures violate the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

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