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A court in Canada has excused Hutterites from carrying photo driving licenses because the religious group believes the Bible prohibits them from having their picture taken.

Justice Sal LoVecchio of the Alberta Court of Queens Bench ruled that Hutterites, who fled persecution before settling in North America in the late 19th century, could carry driving licences without photos even after the government had decreed that everyone had to carry photographic driving ID.

Chris Levy, associate dean of law at the University of Calgary, told the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) that it could be the start of a trend.

"Potentially, at least, they have a strong freedom of religion argument now based on a court...decision in Alberta to back up their objection to being photographed," he said.

The Hutterites are apparently not Luddite, unlike the Amish people popularised by Harrison Ford in Hollywood film Witness, and to which the Hutterites are related.

Yet CBC said they believe that the second commandment from the old testament of the Bible, "thou shalt not make graven images"*, forbids them from having their photograph taken.

Greg Senda, lawyer for the Wilson Colony Hutterite community near Coaldale, 12 kilometres east of Lethbridge, Alberta, had less faith in the ruling as a broad religious ground for resisting the state imposition of photo identification such as ID cards.

The colony's dependence on driving to run its farm had influenced the court decision.

But not all Hutterites challenged the photographic ID requirement.

Mark Waldner, of Hutterites.org, said Hutterites outside of the one Albertan community that protested did not all agree with their views.

"I'm a Hutterite and have no qualms about using photo ID on my driver's license," he said.

"Some Hutterites, including myself, contend that...as long as we don't make an idol out of those 'images' we aren't trespassing the commandment," he added.

The Hutterites also believe that the "community of goods is the highest form of love", according to Waldner's website, which promotes their religion. They hold no personal possessions, share all things equally in the community, according to need. They are also pacifist.®

* Thou shalt have no other gods before me. Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth: Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me (Exodus 20:3-5)

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