Alberta has lost an appeal of a court ruling that exempts Hutterites from having photographs on their driver's licences.

The province argued that having all drivers photographed helps prevent fraud, identity theft and terrorism.

But in a ruling released Thursday, theAlberta Court of Appealconcludedthat the government failed to justify the infringement on the Hutterites' religious objections to being photographed.

Members of theWilson Colony, near Coaldale, 12 kilometres east of Lethbridge, took the province to court after the government introduced a new licence in 2003that requires a driver's photo.

The following spring, Sam Wurz of the Wilson Springs Colony in southern Alberta was pulled over as he was driving to Lethbridge. His licence didn't have a picture and he was fined $230 for driving without a valid licence.

That started the legal struggle that ended late Wednesday with the release of the Appeal Court decision.

Thecolony had argued that the government's rule violated its charter right to freedom of religion. Members believe the second commandment in the Bible ("Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image") prohibits them from willingly having their picture taken.

The colony was alsoworried about what might have happened to its large-scale farming operation if no one was allowed to drive.

Service Alberta spokesman Eoin Kenny said the government has already issued about 80 interim licences without photographs. He said the provision is now available to anyone with a religious objection to being photographed.

With files from Canadian Press