PORTLAND, Org. (KATU) – He fought the law and won. Now, an Oregon man’s driver’s license picture has become the focal point of a constitutional rights case study.
Long lines and lots of paperwork. The DMV isn’t exactly everyone’s favorite place to be, especially if you’re this man.
This is bishop. He says his ordeal began last summer when he went to get his license renewed. He chose to wear this hat depicting a fox in the photo to honor his religion.
Bishop said, “I’m a practitioner of the seven drums religion. It’s one of the Nez Perce religions where we all have a wild animal totem.”
His animal is a fox, so he wears the hat as a symbol of that spirit wherever he goes. The DMV office let him wear it when he took that picture so he thought everything was fine, until the application went through processing.
Bishop: “Then, down at the state office where all the ids go through review, a gentleman saw my id and thought I was just wearing some silly hat.”
Bishop says his renewal was denied, leaving him without a license for nine months.
Bradley Steinman, bishop’s lawyer said, “Religious freedom is one of the foundational [sic] principals of the United States. It’s one of the things that makes our country the greatest country on the earth.”
Bishop says his religious freedoms were violated, so he teamed up with lawyer Steinman to fight back.
But David house, a spokesman for the DMV, says they were just following protocol.
Spokesman for the DMV said, “So for our facial recognition software to work we need people to remove any hat or facial gear that obscures their face.”
House has never heard of a case citing this specific religion, but says the DMV does its best to accommodate everyone.
Bishop eventually won his appeal, but now he wants to warn others to stick up for their rights no matter what it takes.
Bishop: “It shouldn’t matter if you wear a yamaka or a hijab or, ‘a silly fox hat,’ as the man at the DMV wants to call it.”