Comments Daniel Pipes:

Sultaana Freeman — the woman suing the State of Florida to win the right to be pictured on her driver’s license wearing a niqab and showing just her eyes — is back in the news today, with a report in the Orlando Sentinel on the arguments yesterday in front of the judges at Florida’s Fifth District Court of Appeal. The paper summarizes these:

Howard Marx, Freeman’s attorney, argued that the state should not substantially burden his client with the requirement that she appear without her veil on her drivers license. Conversely, Assistant Attorney General Jay Vail relied on the decision last year in an Orange County circuit court that favored the state’s argument that 9-11 security concerns must outweigh a person’s individual rights.

This case will go some way to deciding whether Saudi norms, with all their implications, will be imposed on the United States or not. (If judges read the opinion polls, there won’t be any doubt; see the unscientific but convincing WFTV survey that finds 97 percent of respondents replying “no” to the question “Should the judge allow her to wear her veil in her driver license photo?”)

You can see her picture here. The Smoking Gun notes:

Turns out the Florida woman who is suing for the right to wear a Muslim headdress in a driver’s license photograph has previously been subjected to an, um, unveiled government portrait. Following her 1997 conversion to Islam, Sultaana Freeman (formerly Sandra Keller) was arrested in Decatur, Illinois for battering a foster child. Freeman, 35, pleaded guilty in 1999 to felony aggravated battery and was sentenced to 18 months probation. As a result of the conviction, state officials removed two foster children from Freeman’s care.

Previously we wrote:

Sultaana Freeman should not feel too bad–in Saudi Arabia she would not be able to wear a veil to cover her face for a photo ID–in fact, she in Saudi Arabia women are not even permitted to drive. (Postscript: In Muslim countries where women are allowed to drive, such as Iran, Egypt, United Arab Emirates, Oman, Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain and Jordan, women do not cover their faces for a photo ID.) [Freeman Unveiled]

We also wrote:

Freedom of religion doesn’t give one the right to a driver’s license, which is a privilege granted by the owner of the roads–in this case the government. Freeman’s options are to uncover her face, or forgo getting a license. [Islam vs. Driver’s Licenses]

Writes Nicholas Provenzo in the Rule of Reason,

A drivers license may serve as a proxy for an ID, but in fact, it is nothing more than a license to operate a motor vehicle on government highways. Such a license should not demand invading an individual’s privacy if they wish to maintain it.

If the question before the court was regarding the woman’s passport, for example, I would probably side with the woman having to remove her veil if she wished to be issued a passport on the grounds that a passport serves as a form of identification and demands the means to physically identify the person in question.

In response to “libertarian rants” that Sultaana should win because the roads should be private: yes, the government should not build and maintain the roads under capitalism (in which case the state should not be giving licenses to use those roads, and the state should not be setting any rules as how to drive on those roads, i.e., speed limits.)

However, several points are in order: (1) we do not live in a laissez-faire society, we live in a “mixed economy” so in the “short run” the fact that the government does control the roads is a fact (though not a metaphysical one); (2) The transition to laissez-faire will not happen over night, but only after a profound cultural and philosophical change. Until this transition occurs, we need to survive and live with some sort of stability–“a rule of law”–in the present. Sultaana winning her case will not aid that stability or aid the transition to Capitalism; (3) A Florida’s drivers license with a picture ID counts as a legal form of physical identification that may be used to enter and leave the U.S. without the need of another form of picture identification.

One can use a Florida’s driver license (as a picture ID) in conjunction with a U.S. birth certificate to travel in and out of the United States to a foreign country, like the Bahamas, without owning a passport as many a Spring Breaker can attest. You can also take it to a Florida bank and use it to withdraw money from your bank account as it counts as a valid, legal form of picture identification. If you have been to BestBuy or WalMart and are making a very large credit card purchase they may ask you to show a picture I.D. to physically identify that you say who you are–and yes, they do accept a Florida Driver’s license (in fact stores often prefer the Florida’s driver’s license to a foreign passport that they are not familiar with, i.e., have no means of validating). Given the present context, the Florida driver’s license counts as an official government issued legal form of identification.

The Florida driver license laws can be hypocritical and contradictory–this is no grounds to add to that hypocrisy or to add to those contradictions by suggesting that Sultaana win her case on the grounds she is fighting for. Sultaana Freeman, or her lawyer, are not arguing to have the roads privatized. They are not arguing to remove the hypocrisy that may be present in the issuance of such licenses. They are arguing to undermine a legal form of picture identification.

In such cases, the defender of capitalism needs to focus on the essential issue in the short-run, while at the same time keeping an eye on the long run. In this case what is more important? The threat of terrorism from undermining legal forms of identification or the absolute mantra of “privatizing the roads”? Given that national security takes priority over privatizing the roads, the government should enforce the rules regarding picture IDs used as legal identification. (Such a case can be argued where the two–legal identification and privatizing roads–are not facing off against each other, Mrs. Freeman’s case is not concerned with either issue).

If Mrs. Freeman were arguing that the government should not own the roads I would tend to be supportive her case. She is not. She should lose.

Voice of Capitalism

Capitalism news delivered every Monday to your email inbox.

You have Successfully Subscribed!

Pin It on Pinterest