- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 31, 2002

WINTER PARK, Fla. (UPI) A lawyer says he believes a Florida law will help overturn a decision to deny a woman a driver's license because of her refusal to remove her Islamic veil for the identification picture.
Sultaana Freeman says her religion forbids her from revealing her face to strangers.
Miss Freeman had a Florida driver's license until Dec. 17, when the state revoked it because she refused to allow examiners to take her photograph without a veil that showed only her eyes and forehead.
"It was not a problem until after September 11," said civil liberties lawyer Howard Marks, referring to the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.
Mr. Marks filed a petition in circuit court in Orlando on Jan. 17 seeking to overturn the decision. He said similar regulations have been overturned in Indiana, Colorado and Nebraska.
Mr. Marks is basing his approach on the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1998, which was passed to shore up provisions of the Florida Constitution regarding free exercise of religion.
"It's a strong legal argument," he said.
No hearing dates or deadlines have been set in the case, but state officials are not backing down.
"Florida law requires a full facial view of a person on their driver's license photo," said Robert Sanchez of the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles. "We have no choice but to enforce it."
Miss Freeman is unemployed so she can care for her 7-month-old child. She said that when she lived in Illinois and worked as a civil engineer for the state utility company, she had no problem with her license.
She said she was photographed with her veil.
Miss Freeman, a former evangelist preacher, converted to Islam about five years ago.
Altaf Ali, executive director of the Florida chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said three other Muslim women have been refused licenses because of their veils.
"I'm sure there's a lot more that's happening and not getting reported," Mr. Ali said.

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