"Drivers' License"April 9, 1990
To: Director of Vehicles
State Department of Revenue
I moved to this area last year after accepting the invitation
to serve as the pastor of a local Mennonite church. Frequently
I travel around here at the controls of an automobile. In such
circumstances the police may ask to see a “Drivers’ License.”
I am willing to obtain a “Drivers’ License” as a convenient certificate of identification and competency, if I can do so without in any way waiving or altering any of my rights. In this regard, I am wondering what is the legal significance of the “signature” required to obtain a “Drivers’ License.” Would such a signature give the State of Kansas authority, power, or jurisdiction over me which it does not otherwise have?
Please tell me how it is possible for me to obtain a “Drivers’ License” while fully retaining all of my rights.
I am writing this in the spirit of Romans 12:18, “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.”
April 23, 1990
(Response of the Director)
I am not sure what rights you may feel you are waiving or altering by obtaining a drivers license and affixing your signature to that license.
When you obtain a drivers license you are acquiring a privilege to operate a motor vehicle on the public highways. The license shows that you have demonstrated that you can safely operate a motor vehicle. Your signature is your protection against someone else using your signature for fraudulent purposes.
A person’s driving privileges can be taken away if the person violates the traffic laws or demonstrates that they are incapable of safely operating a motor vehicle. Such privileges can be taken away even if a person does not have a drivers license.
It is against the law to drive without being licensed and any person who does so is subject to the penalties of law. These laws are for the protection of the public.
April 30, 1990
(To the Director)
I am writing in response to your letter of April 23. I thank you for your timely response to my letter of April 9.
I am not sure either what rights I would be waiving or altering by obtaining a drivers license and affixing my signature to that license. That is why I hesitate to do so. I am concerned that, during the period of years for which it were granted, a “license” would subject me to the yet unknown will of the Kansas State Legislature regarding licensees. Does a licensee in the exercise of his privileges have any rights which are not subject to the will of the State Legislature? I want to be free to serve my Lord, Jesus Christ. When I have a choice, I don’t want to subject myself to any other lord.
I am willing to demonstrate that I can safely operate a motor vehicle and to obtain a certificate of such competency. Can I do so without applying for a privilege?
You state that the signature is for my protection against fraud. I remain apprehensive that the signature also has other legal significance. Can you assure me that the signature has no legal or contractual significance, stated or implied? Can you assure me that it gives the State of Kansas no authority which it does not otherwise have? If I waive this “protection,” can I obtain a “license” without a signature? Or, may I qualify my “signature” by stating that it is a sample displayed only to protect the writer against someone else using the signature for fraudulent purposes, that it has no legal or contractual significance, and that the writer is not thereby altering any of his rights?
You stated that a person’s driving privileges can be “taken away,” even if a person does not have a drivers license. I don’t understand. If a person from whom the driving privileges can be taken away does not have a drivers license, how did he come to have such driving privileges?
It is not my desire to obtain “driving privileges.” I am content with my God-given right to travel. I believe that traveling by common means where there is a common right of way is a common right. Do you agree?
I repeat my request: Please tell me how it is possible to obtain a “Drivers License” (or demonstrate in another acceptable way that I can safely operate a motor vehicle), while fully retaining all of my rights. Your further help in this matter will be appreciated.
June 6, 1990
(From an Attorney in the Legal Services Bureau)
Your April 30, 1990, correspondence has been referred to me for response. Although you certainly have the constitutional right to move freely about, in the State of Kansas the ability to operate a motor vehicle is a legislatively-granted privilege, not an absolute right. As such, that ability is granted to those persons who can demonstrate the necessary skills for motor vehicle operation and is taken away or denied to those persons who cannot or who for certain defined causes have demonstrated a disregard for the safety of the motoring public generally. A driver’s license merely evidences one’s privilege to drive.
It is illegal for you to operate a motor vehicle in Kansas without a driver’s license (and without motor vehicle liability insurance coverage, by the way). Obtaining a driver’s license risks no more of what you consider to be your “rights” than the privilege to drive and then only for cause shown.
I read nothing in your letter suggesting to me that you entertain a sincere, religiously-based objection to any licensing requirements, including providing your signature. We will not issue you a driver’s license without your signature.
June 27, 1990
(To the Attorney)
I thank you for your June 6 correspondence.
I do have sincere, religiously-based convictions which may prevent me from obtaining a “driver’s license."
Based on my religious convictions, I sincerely object to any license requirements imposed on the freedom I have as a servant of Jesus Christ. (I Peter 2: 16) Jesus Christ is my sovereign Lord. I believe that I may not voluntarily give any human ruler sovereign control over any part of my life. I desire not to live within any political corporation of human origin. I live my life in the Kingdom of God and the Church of Jesus Christ, God s Son, the crowned Prince of Peace, who has been given all authority in heaven and on earth. (Matthew 28:18) As a member of God’s household, I live my life subject to the laws of God, on the earth which he created. ‘‘The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live on it." (Psalm 24:1) I am content with the security, protection, care, and comfort which I receive from Jesus Christ and His people.
As a servant of the Prince of Peace, I desire to live at peace with everyone, and to comply with all local customs and codes which promote health, safety, and peaceful order. I do not need from any other lord a permit or license so to live.
As a means of avoiding contention, I will consider participating in a process which would recognize or certify abilities which have been given me by my Creator, and which remain subject to His control. Were I to obtain a Kansas "driver's license,“ would you acknowledge the superior claims of Jesus Christ over my actions as a licensee? Is the State of Kansas committed not to supersede or contradict the authority of Jesus Christ? Would I be able to qualify my signature on a "license" with language such as, ‘‘licensee remains subject to the superior Lordship of Jesus Christ? Would you grant a ‘‘license" subject to such a qualification?
As I implied in my first letter of April 9, I am concerned that I may he stopped at a road block. Without violating my conscience, I would I like to find a way to satisfy any officer who may stop me that I can safely operate an automobile, or that my religious convictions prevent me from obtaining the typical “drivers license." Can you help me?
Your reply will be appreciated.
July 24, 1990
(From the Attorney)
Responding to your June 27, 1990, correspondence, be advised that the “religiously-based convictions” referred to by you are not the type of objections that we can accommodate.
Responding to your specific questions, be advised as follows:
1. Given the constitutional guarantee of separation of Church and State, we do not acknowledge “the superior claims of Jesus Christ over [your] actions as a licensee.” Likewise, neither is the “State of Kansas committed not to supersede or contradict the authority of Jesus Christ” insofar as licensing matters are concerned.
2. You will not be able to qualify your signature with language such as “Licensee remains subject to the superior Lordship of Jesus Christ” nor will we recognize such a qualification without reference to specific circumstances.
3. If you are stopped by a law enforcement officer while operating a motor vehicle without a license, you no doubt will be charged with a criminal offense.
I trust that I’ve responded to your inquiries.
July 25, 1990
(To the Attorney)
I thank you for your letter of July 24.
Your response is based on the separation of Church and State. In an effort to remove ecclesiastical language, I have modified the wording of my questions.
Were I to obtain a Kansas "driver’s license,” would you acknowledge the superior claims of God over my actions as a licensee?
Is the State of Kansas committed not to supersede or contradict the laws of God the Creator?
Would I he able to qualify my signature with language such as "Licensee remains a citizen of God’s Kingdom and subject to His supreme authority”?
Your response will be appreciated.
August 7, 1990
(From the Attorney)
Your last correspondence of July 25, 1990, has been received. I can offer no further explanation than I have already provided you. I trust that no further response by me will be necessary.
August 10, 1990
(To the Attorney)
Your correspondence of August 7 has been received.
As I consider in general my relationship to the State of Kansas, and in particular whether I can in good conscience put my signature on a driver's license, I have tried to focus the issue of my concern in one final question which you are able to answer. My question is: When necessary, to achieve the will of the legislature in licensing matters, does the State of Kansas have the legal ability to supersede or contradict the authority of God the Creator?
Your response will enable to make my decisions.
I thank you for your response to my previous questions, and for your patience throughout our correspondence.
December 20, 1990
(To the Attorney)
In my letters over the past several months, I have been asking you to answer this question: When necessary, to achieve the will of the legislature in licensing matters, does the State of Kansas have the legal ability to supersede or contradict the authority of God the Creator?
When I called you by telephone this morning, you said that you cannot answer any question which implies the existence or non-existence of God because it is not an appropriate question for government to answer. You said that you don't deal with questions about God, or whether God's will supersedes licensing matters. You said that it is not the function of the State of Kansas to acknowledge, or not to acknowledge, that there is a god, or is not a god, or that any god which exists has authority over us. You said the State of Kansas takes no position on whether or not there is a god, because the matter is irrelevant to its business.
I choose not to make open-ended commitments to any organization which acts as if the existence and authority of God the Creator are irrelevant considerations.
Unless I am assured that you will not try to supersede or contradict the authority of God the Creator, I will not voluntarily enter your jurisdiction by putting my signature on a Kansas drivers license. I prefer to remain a foreigner. And, I hope, a friend. (Romans 12:18)
December 21, 1990
(To the Board of Deacons)
I have read with you copies of correspondence which I have had with the State of Kansas between April 9 and December 20, 1990, a total of twelve letters.
For reasons expressed in those letters, I cannot in good conscience sign a Kansas drivers license. To the best of my knowledge, signing a license is the voluntary granting of authority and jurisdiction which the state does not otherwise have. I believe that the Lord Jesus does not want me to willingly invite others to rule over me.
When necessary for family responsibilities or pastoral responsibilities, my conscience permits me to operate an automobile, accepting the possibility that this could lead to an arrest and time in jail.
I am presenting this to you as information, believing that this is my responsibility. I am not asking you to go on record with specific advice on this matter. However, if the deacons should decide to advise me as pastor not to operate an automobile, I will honor and conform to your advice.
I am willing to explore this matter in greater depth with the deacons or with other brothers and sisters. May the Lord give us wisdom so that everything we do may bring honor to His Name.
January 31, 1991
Memorandum to the Deacons
After reflecting on our discussion at the January 29 Deacons' meeting, I thought it might be helpful for me to state as concisely as possible my understanding of my actions relating to the license matter.
What I am not doing:
1. I am not trying to change any laws, rules, regulations, or government practices.
2. I am not intentionally breaking any laws which apply to me.
3. I am not implying that other Christians must do what I am doing.
What I am doing:
1. I am choosing to recognize Jesus Christ as my only ruler.
2. I am choosing greater freedom to serve Jesus Christ without restrictions.
3. I am offering to make other arrangements for all necessary transportation if my operation of an automobile is offensive to the congregation.
These decisions are based on the following beliefs:
1. Each of us chooses whom we will serve as our rulers.
2. Rulers do not have authority or jurisdiction over us without our consent.
3. The Scriptures encourage Christians to free themselves from human rulers when the opportunity arises.
4. My signature on a driver’s license would give the State of Kansas jurisdiction over me which it does not otherwise have.