A Muslim woman suing to keep her veil on for her driver’s license photo took the stand Tuesday, saying Florida’s insistence on photographing her face violates her religious rights.
“I don’t unveil ... because it would be disobeying my Lord,” said Sultaana Freeman, 35.
Both sides planned to call experts in Islamic law at the nonjury trial, which was to continue today. A copy of the Koran was entered into evidence.
Freeman, a convert to Islam previously known as Sandra Kellar, wore her veil for the photo on the Florida driver’s license she obtained after moving to the state in 2001.
Nine months later, she received a letter from the state warning that it would revoke her license unless she returned for a photo with her face uncovered.
Freeman claims her religious beliefs require her to keep her head and face covered out of modesty and that her faith prohibits her face from being photographed.
Her attorneys argued that state officials didn’t care that she wore a veil in the photo until after the Sept. 11 attacks, an allegation the state denies.
“This is about religious liberty. It’s about whether this country is going to have religious diversity,” said Howard Marks, an attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida.
Assistant Atty. Gen. Jason Vail argued that having an easily identifiable photo on a driver’s license is a matter of public safety.
“It’s the primary method of identification in Florida and the nation,” Vail said. “I don’t think there can be any doubt there is a public safety interest.”