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‘Mark of the beast’ seen in national ID

Eric Eyre / Charlston Gazzette | April 18 2006

A group of Christian conservatives is urging Gov. Joe Manchin to reject a federally mandated digitized driver’s license law, comparing the bar-coded national ID program to the “mark of the beast.”

Fourteen members of the group that opposes the federal Real ID Act of 2005 met with Division of Motor Vehicles Commissioner Joseph Cicchirillo, governor’s office lawyer Joe Ward and Manchin legislative aide Jim Pitrolo for more than an hour on April 5.

Pastor Ervin “Butch” Paugh, a 57-year-old Nicholas County preacher who heads the group, said last week that the new driver’s licenses are unconstitutional, invade people’s privacy and conflict with Christian beliefs. He said the federal government is trying to create a “police state” with the new ID law.

“This is a total takeover by the beast system and a plan to ID everyone on the planet,” said Paugh, who has a nationally syndicated radio show called “Call to Decision.” “This will make someone a criminal if they don’t sacrifice their Christian convictions.”

The Real ID Act, which Congress approved last year, will take effect in 2008. States must comply with the regulations, according to Cicchirillo.

“The issue at hand is the protection of our citizens,” he said in a letter to Paugh.

Department of Transportation spokeswoman Susan Watkins said DMV officials are “still reviewing and evaluating” Paugh’s criticism of the standardized ID program.

“At this point no decisions have been made,” Watkins said.

Last month, New Hampshire’s House members overwhelmingly voted to bar the state from taking part in the national ID program. The New Hampshire Senate is expected to debate a similar bill.

The liberal American Civil Liberties Union and conservative Cato Institute also oppose the federally standardized driver’s licenses. Libertarian party members across the country have spoken out against the Real ID Act.

The new law establishes national standards for state-issued driver’s licenses and ID cards. Some call the new driver’s licenses national ID cards because they require the approval of the Secretary of Homeland Security.

Each license or ID card must include the person’s name, address, signature, date of birth, gender, and a digital photograph of the person’s face. Applicants also must submit more documentation for identification purposes than most states now require.

Each state also must share its database with all other states. The database must include the basic information on the license, along with drivers’ histories, including motor vehicle violations, suspensions and points on licenses.

The new law gives the secretary of Homeland Security the power to require additional details on state driver’s licenses.

By May 2008, federal agencies will accept driver’s licenses as identification only from states that comply with the new law. So residents who don’t have the new IDs won’t be allowed to board a plane or enter a federal building without one.

Paugh predicts that the federal government will require that digitized thumbprints, facial and eye scans, and DNA information be included on driver’s licenses. He believes hundreds of thousands of Americans will refuse the new standardized driver’s licenses.

“I don’t want the information about my personal life put in a public record for anybody to get a hold of who can hack into a computer,” Paugh said. “If I give my uniqueness to a beast system, I can never get it back. The beast system will eventually kill all those who follow it.”

The Bible’s book of Revelation describes the beast system and “mark of the beast,” warning that numbering people signals the arrival of the Antichrist. People who accept the mark are defying God, Paugh believes.

Paugh’s group includes conservative Christians from Nicholas, Kanawha, Harrison, Randolph counties, and Canada. They meet Saturdays at a member’s house and Sundays at a motel room.

Most members have refused to obtain West Virginia driver’s licenses.

Instead, they drive with licenses from the “Republic of Anodyne,” a fictitious country run out of a Florida apartment building with an “embassy” in Tampa. The organization issues driver’s licenses and passports for $40 each, no questions asked.

Paugh said West Virginia State Police and local law enforcement agencies accept Republic of Anodyne licenses.

However, Sgt. M.F. Johns of the South Charleston detachment of the State Police, said the agency accepts only government-issued licenses.

“I have never heard of that,” he said. “Unless it comes from an official state government or another country, we wouldn’t accept it.”

In the past, group members used licenses issued by the Bahamas.

Paugh’s web site, www.calltodeci

sion.com, displays an upside-down American flag flanked by a colonial American flag and a Confederate flag. The group believes the United States would have been better off if the South had won the Civil War, although they don’t believe slavery should still exist.

Phil Hudok, a member of Paugh’s group, said West Virginians should abide by the state motto, “Mountaineers are always free.”

In 1999, Hudok, an Elkins High School physics teacher at the time, made headlines after he refused to enforce a policy that required students to wear ID badges with bar codes. The school board fired Hudok, but he was later reinstated.

Staff writer Sarah K. Winn contributed to this report.

To contact staff writer Eric Eyre, use e-mail or call 348-4869.

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