State to create ID cards without pictures for Amish, Mennonite communities

State to create ID cards without pictures for Amish, Mennonite communities
A sample of a proposed Virginia ID card without a photograph. (Virginia DMV)

Old Order Mennonites dress plain, rely on horse and buggies for transportation and, for the most part, don’t want their picture taken.

It’s meant most members of the community don’t have state-issued identification cards – a situation Virginia is set to remedy this year with the passage of legislation allowing IDs without pictures for the first time.

“We see a photo as a graven image, which is forbidden in the scriptures,” says a buggy maker who lives in a Mennonite community of just under 1,000 outside of Harrisonburg.

While they’ve lived without IDs here for more than 100 years, it’s increasingly created problems.

The community asked Del. Tony Wilt, R-Rockingham, to pursue pictureless IDs last year, prompting a DMV study that found an estimated 2,000 Old Order Mennonite and Old Order Amish people living in the state would qualify for and likely seek out the IDs.

The legislation passed the General Assembly without much debate this year, largely because Wilt said the communities agreed to pay a higher fee ($80) for the cards, which the DMV estimates will entirely cover the $275,000 cost of producing them.

The Virginia Mercury is a new, nonpartisan, nonprofit news organization covering Virginia government and policy.