A state senator from New York has introduced legislation exempting members of Amish and Mennonite communities from being required to submit a photograph to receive a handgun permit.
Handgun purchasers in New York must first obtain a state-issued permit that includes photo identification. Because members of the Amish and Mennonite communities do not allow themselves to be photographed, Senator Catharine Young believes they should be exempt from the photo ID portion of the handgun permitting process.
“Currently, members of the Amish and Mennonite communities are unable to possess pistols or revolvers in New York without violating the tenets of their religion by submitting to the taking of a photograph which would also be used for identification purposes,” wrote Young, whose jurisdiction covers Chautauqua, Cattaraugus and Allegany Counties, and includes a large number of Amish and Mennonite communities.
Instead of having their picture taken, Amish and Mennonite individuals would be required to submit a written affidavit confirming that their faith prevents them from being photographed.
According to the text of the bill, the two religious sects have received similar government exemptions in the past, including for labor requirements, school house building codes, and certain educational requirements.
Two years ago an Amish man in Pennsylvania filed a federal lawsuit over this same issue, according to a report from The Gothamist. The man quickly dropped the suit, but he articulated precisely why members of his faith do not allow themselves to be photographed:
“The Amish faith prohibits an individual from having his/her photograph taken,” the suit read. “This belief stems from the Biblical passage Exodus 20:4, which mandates that ‘You shall not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth,’ as well as the Christian belief in humility.”
The Illinois General Assembly passed a similar bill in 2012. The Illinois version allows members of Amish communities to purchase firearms with a photo-less Firearms Owner ID card (FOID).
The New York bill is currently being considered by the Senate Rules Committee. Thirteen Republicans and 11 Democrats currently sit on the Rules Committee, and it is chaired by Republican Sen. John Flanagan.