Discrimination based on one's color is bad enough, but discriminating against a person because of his collar is just too much, according to an Indiana pastor who was denied a US passport because he wore his clerical collar for his photograph.
According to lawyers for the religious freedom-defending Liberty Institute, Lutheran Pastor Mark Powell applied for a passport, but instead got a letter from the U.S. State Department's National Passport Information Center informing him that his application had been rejected because in his photograph he is "not shown in normal attire."
The article of attire the State Department did not find "normal" turned out to be Pastor Powell's clerical collar.
"I am astonished that the U.S. State Department refused to issue my passport simply because I am photographed in my clerical collar, something that I wear everyday as part of my religious beliefs and practice as an ordained Lutheran pastor," said Pastor Powell in a press release.
The State Department's own guidelines for passport photographs states, "Uniforms should not be worn in your photo, except religious clothing that is worn daily."
Also See: How to Apply for a US Passport
Other things that should not be worn in passport application photographs include hats or headgear that obscures the hair or hairline, and dark or tinted glasses, unless medically required.
The Liberty Institute, a non-partisan group that says it is dedicated to "defending and restoring religious liberty across America," sent a letter to the State Department demanding that Pastor Powell's passport be issued using the photograph he supplied.
"The U.S. State Department's refusal to issue a passport to Pastor Powell because he dresses in a clerical collar is not only outrageous, it also violates federal law, including the Religious Freedom Restoration Act and the First Amendment," wrote Jeff Mateer, Liberty Institute's general counsel in the letter. "We demand that the State Department stop this infringement upon Pastor Powell's religious liberty rights and issue his passport immediately."