Champion v. Sec. of State, Docket No. 277337.

CourtCourt of Appeal of Michigan (US)
Citation281 Mich. App. 307,761 N.W.2d 747
Docket NumberDocket No. 277337.
Decision Date16 October 2008
761 N.W.2d 747
281 Mich. App. 307
Docket No. 277337.
Court of Appeals of Michigan.
Submitted September 3, 2008, at Lansing.
Decided October 16, 2008, at 9:00 a.m.

[761 N.W.2d 750]

Cary M. Champion in propria persona.

Michael A. Cox, Attorney General, B. Eric Restuccia, Solicitor General, and Kevin L. Francart, Assistant Attorney General, for the defendant.



Plaintiff appeals as of right the trial court's order granting summary disposition in favor of defendant in this action arising out of plaintiff's repeated unsuccessful attempts to renew his driver's license without reporting his social security number on the renewal application. Plaintiff, citing his right to freely exercise his religious beliefs,1 refused to furnish his social security number as demanded by defendant pursuant to the requirements of MCL 257.307(1)(a). On appeal, plaintiff raises numerous constitutional and statutory issues. We affirm.

This Court reviews de novo a trial court's ruling on a motion for summary disposition. Kreiner v. Fischer, 471 Mich. 109, 129, 683 N.W.2d 611 (2004). Issues of statutory construction and questions of constitutional law are likewise reviewed de novo on appeal. Feyz v. Mercy Mem. Hosp., 475 Mich. 663, 672, 719 N.W.2d 1 (2006); Wayne Co. v. Hathcock, 471 Mich. 445, 455, 684 N.W.2d 765 (2004).

In his complaint, plaintiff alleged that defendant, by refusing to allow him to renew his license without submitting of his social security number and by rejecting the religious grounds given for his stance, knowingly and willfully violated Const. 1963, art. 1, § 4 (freedom of worship and religious belief), violated Const. 1963, art. 1, § 2 (equal protection),2 and violated MCL 257.307(13). In his prayer for relief, plaintiff requested renewal of his license without fee, cost, or payment, retroactive renewal to the expiration date of his last license, the drafting of a standard form by defendant, in accordance with MCL 257.307(13), for use by individuals who, for religious reasons, do not want to divulge their social security numbers in the license application and renewal process, and plaintiff requested money damages in the amount of $10 million. Plaintiff also sought a declaratory ruling that the state engaged in unconstitutional activity by entering into a contract with the federal government pursuant to which the state receives federal child support enforcement funds in exchange for compliance with federal law dictating the procurement of social security numbers on license applications in violation of religious freedoms. This last assertion was founded on principles arising from the Tenth Amendment and the Spending Clause, art. I, § 8, of the United States Constitution.3

761 N.W.2d 751

MCL 257.307(1)(a) mandates that an application for an operator's or chauffeur's license contain the following:

The applicant's full legal name, date of birth, residence address, height, sex, eye color, signature, ... intent to make an anatomical gift, other information required or permitted on the license under this chapter, and, only to the extent required to comply with federal law, the applicant's social security number. ... [Emphasis added.]

To qualify for various federal welfare funds, states must certify that they will operate a child support enforcement program that conforms to Title IV-D of the Social Security Act, as amended by the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996, P.L. 104-193, which we shall refer to as the Child Support and Establishment of Paternity Act (CSEPA), 42 USC 651 et seq., and that they will do so pursuant to an approved detailed plan. Blessing v. Freestone, 520 U.S. 329, 333, 117 S.Ct. 1353, 137 L.Ed.2d 569 (1997). The states must collect overdue support payments, establish comprehensive systems to establish paternity, locate absent parents, and help families obtain support orders. Id. at 333-334, 117 S.Ct. 1353. Pursuant to 42 USC 654(20), "[a] State plan for child and spousal support must ... provide, to the extent required by [42 USC 666], that the State ... shall have in effect all of the laws to improve child support enforcement effectiveness which are referred to in that section[.]" 42 USC 666 provides in relevant part:

(a) Types of procedures required

In order to satisfy [42 USC 654(20)(A)], each State must have in effect laws requiring the use of the following procedures, consistent with this section and with regulations of the Secretary, to increase the effectiveness of the program which the State administers under this part:

* * *

(13) Recording of social security numbers in certain family matters. Procedures requiring that the social security number of—

(A) any applicant for a professional license, driver's license, occupational license, recreational license, or marriage license be recorded on the application;

* * *

For purposes of subparagraph (A), if a State allows the use of a number other than the social security number to be used on the face of the document while the social security number is kept on file at the agency, the State shall so advise any applicants. [Emphasis added.]

Because there is no dispute that Michigan operates a child support enforcement program that meets the requirements of the CSEPA and Michigan receives federal funding because of its participation, 42 USC 654(20) mandates that Michigan comply with 42 USC 666(a)(13)(A).4 We also note that the final paragraph of 42 USC

761 N.W.2d 752

666(a)(13) that refers to the use of a number other than a social security number does not create an exception to the recording requirement in § 666(a)(13)(A). See Lewis v. Idaho Dep't. of Transportation, 143 Idaho 418, 423 n. 4, 146 P.3d 684 (Idaho App., 2006) (applicant's social security number need not be recorded on the license itself, but it still must be reported or furnished by the applicant for purposes of having the information in the department file).

We first address plaintiff's arguments under former MCL 257.307(13). At the time of the license renewal efforts and the filing of the complaint, MCL 257.307(13) provided:

A requirement under this section to include a social security number on [a driver's license] application does not apply to an applicant who demonstrates he or she is exempt under law from obtaining a social security number or to an applicant who for religious convictions is exempt under law from disclosure of his or her social security number under these circumstances. The secretary of state shall inform the applicant of this possible exemption. [2004 P.A. 362 (emphasis added).]

Pursuant to 2008 P.A. 7, subsection 13 was amended, deleting the religious-conviction exemption, and it now simply provides that "[a] requirement under this section to include a social security number on an application does not apply to an applicant who demonstrates he or she is exempt under law from obtaining a social security number."

Former MCL 257.307(13) required that the applicant be "exempt under law," which necessarily directs attention to a law other than § 307(13). In Cheeseman v. American Multi-Cinema, Inc., 108 Mich. App. 428, 433, 310 N.W.2d 408 (1981), this Court rejected an argument that the words "except where permitted by law" reflected a legislative intent to encompass solely statutory law. The Cheeseman panel ruled that "the term `law' includes the entire body of law including but not limited to the constitution, the statutes, administrative rules and regulations, and the common law as embodied in decisions and judgments of courts[.]" Id. at 441, 310 N.W.2d 408. Thus, the use of the term "law" here includes constitutional provisions that would carve out a religion-based exception to the social security number requirement.

Aside from Tenth Amendment and Spending Clause arguments on the final appellate issue addressed later, plaintiff's complaint and arguments on appeal rely solely on Const. 1963, art. 1, §§ 2 and 4. Plaintiff does not place any reliance on the Free Exercise Clause or the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment of the United States Constitution, nor on the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

Article 1, § 4, of the Michigan Constitution, which addresses freedom of religion, provides in relevant part:

Every person shall be at liberty to worship God according to the dictates of his own conscience. No person shall be compelled to attend, or, against his consent, to contribute to the erection or support of any place of religious worship, or to pay tithes, taxes or other rates for the support of any minister of the gospel or teacher of religion. ... The civil and political rights, privileges and capacities of no person shall be diminished or enlarged on account of his religious belief.

Plaintiff's claims fit under the first and last sentences of Const. 1963, art. 1, § 4, where he argues that his liberty to worship according to his own conscience would be compromised if effectively forced by defendant

761 N.W.2d 753

to engage in an activity inconsistent with his religious beliefs, and where his driving privileges were diminished on account of his beliefs.

Pursuant to McCready v. Hoffius, 459 Mich. 131, 143, 586 N.W.2d 723 (1998), vacated in part 459 Mich. 1235, 593 N.W.2d 545 (1999), and Reid v. Kenowa Hills Pub. Schools, 261 Mich.App. 17, 27, 680 N.W.2d 62 (2004), we apply the compelling state interest test (strict scrutiny) to challenges under the free exercise language in Const. 1963, art. 1, § 4, regardless of whether the statute at issue is generally applicable and religion-neutral, which is the case here.5 In McCready, supra at 143-144, 586 N.W.2d 723, the Court stated:

Next, we turn to defendants' claim that the act violates their religious freedom under art 1, § 4 of the Michigan Constitution of 1963. We analyze the [issue] ... under the compelling state interest...

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