Religious freedom meets the right to bear arms in a Pennsylvania case that could have big unintended consequences for states with religious freedom laws and states with background checks for firearms.
Lately, Americans have argued both about their right to bear arms and whether the free exercise of religion allows businesses and state officials to claim exemptions from requirements that conflict with their religious beliefs. It’s not everyday, however, that the two issues, guns and religion, wind up together in a single case.
In a suit that brings together the Second Amendment and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), an Amish man filed a federal lawsuit in Pennsylvania last week because he wants to buy a gun without the required photo ID — and because getting that photo ID would violate his religious beliefs.
Andrew Hertzler, according to the suit, is from Lancaster County, Pa., and is an “active and practicing” member of the community; his “parents, grandparents, and siblings are all active and practicing Amish”; and he “has a sincerely held religious belief that prevents him from knowingly and willingly having his photograph taken and stored.”
“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.”
But Hertzler’s humility caused a problem when, in June, he tried to buy a gun from a Pennsylvania dealer “using a non-photo, state-issued identification.” This wasn’t enough, according to the dealer — Hertzler was told he needed a picture ID.
This case would almost have to go to the Supreme Court, and what the Roberts Court could decide may have very big consequences for states that require photo IDs for firearms background checks (and voting), the limits of religious freedoms, and states being able to set their own laws and which one takes precedence.
The First vs the Second vs the Tenth? Yeah, this one's heading for SCOTUS for sure over the next several years.