Religious groups join fight against national IDs

Critics of federal legislation to establish nationwide identification standards are tapping into religious groups to galvanize resistance to the statute.

The authors of a New Hampshire bill to make the Granite State the first to reject the so-called REAL ID Act have cited financial and constitutional concerns about its implementation. But several conservative Christian groups that have endorsed the New Hampshire proposal are largely motivated by their belief that the law is a sign of the apocalypse.

According to leaders of the movement against the statute, the cause has benefited immensely from the active participation of groups that view the law as the fulfillment of a biblical prophecy. Such groups refer to scripture that predicts that humans will be numbered by marks on their foreheads and hands before the arrival of the antichrist.

Katherine Albrecht, the founder of Consumers Against Supermarket Privacy Invasion and Numbering, has lobbied extensively on behalf of the New Hampshire bill. She said religious groups have been valuable because they are highly mobile and well-organized.

Ervin (Butch) Paugh, a preacher and radio host in West Virginia who is running for governor on the Constitutionalist Party ticket, has been urging lawmakers in his state to follow New Hampshire's lead. Joe Cicchirillo, a commissioner at West Virginia's Department of Motor Vehicles, said he was impressed by Paugh's knowledge of the issue when he met with him this month.

"These guys are really well-informed," Cicchirillo said. "They were well-versed in the details of the New Hampshire situation, and they defend their arguments well."

Albrecht, who is organizing a rally against REAL ID in New Hampshire later this week, said she had hoped Irvin Baxter, the publisher of the religious magazine Endtime, would be able to attend. Baxter said in a telephone interview that he could not make it but that he is closely following the progress of the New Hampshire proposal.

According to Baxter, who also maintains the Web site, lawmakers have been forced to adopt policies to monitor individuals within the United States because they have failed to implement an effective border-security strategy. He said the construction of a high-tech fence, much like the one separating Israel from the West Bank, would negate the need for national IDs.

Federal immigration proposals that would expand a voluntary employment-verification database have complicated the debate, he said. "There has to be another way to enforce security outside of our borders," Baxter said. "But our political leaders have bought into this whole idea of globalization, and this is leading us to a 'mark of the beast' system -- so this all ties together."

Baxter said he is particularly disappointed in President Bush, who he had hoped would be more sympathetic to Christian concerns about national IDs.

"I am stunned," Baxter said. "He either skipped over that part of the Bible, or he completely misunderstood it."

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