When Your Student ID is Really the Mark of the Beast

San Antonio’s Northside Independent School District decided to introduce a unique type of student ID this year. It was a radio tag, allowing administrators to track where students were at all times.

I can possibly see an objection to this solely on a civil liberties basis but Andrea Hernandez and her family oppose it for a completely different reason (PDF):

Plaintiff and her father object to the requirement that Plaintiff wear the Smart ID badge on the basis of Scriptures found in the book of Revelation. According to these Scriptures, an individual’s acceptance of a certain code, identified with his or her person, as a pass conferring certain privileges from a secular ruling authority, is a form of idolatry or submission to a false god.

In other words, Hernandez thinks the ID is the Mark of the Beast as noted in Revelation 13:16-18:

It also forced all people, great and small, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on their right hands or on their foreheads, so that they could not buy or sell unless they had the mark, which is the name of the beast or the number of its name.

This calls for wisdom. Let the person who has insight calculate the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man. That number is 666.

Anyway, the school suspended her, the family filed a lawsuit, and for the time being, a court has granted the family a “temporary restraining order” allowing Andrea not to wear the tag. (The school allowed her to go without the tracking device while mandating the ID, but that wasn’t good enough for the family.)

Incidentally, a very similar incident took place in a Louisiana school back in August. The school had the technology to scan students’ veins and connect it to their lunch account — paying for lunch would take a couple of seconds. But a family complained because it violated Revelation.

Like I said earlier, if these families were arguing on the basis of the right to privacy, I wouldn’t be opposed to them. But they’re going well beyond that. They’re using an obscure verse in the Bible — as if they take everything else in the Bible literally — and saying that’s a good enough reason for the school to let them off the hook.

Who knows if they honestly believe any of this, but the Christian Right will no doubt line up right behind them. The school’s not violating anybody’s religious liberties, but if the Christian groups can twist a story to make it seem that way, no matter how wacky it sounds, they’ll do it.

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.

  • http://nwrickert.wordpress.com/ Neil Rickert

    What does that argument do to the GOP demand that a photo ID be required for voters?

  • kaydenpat

    Forget about the Mark of the Beast nonsense.  Why does the school need to know where students are at all times?  Sounds Big Brother-ish.

  • MacCrocodile

    Sorry, Hemant, I’m going to have to be That Guy for a moment. It’s Revelation, singular.

    Okay, carry on then.

  • Kirby_G

    “an individual’s acceptance of a certain code, identified with his or her person, as a pass conferring certain privileges from a secular ruling authority, is a form of idolatry or submission to a false god.”

    Social Insurance Number?

    Driver’s License Number?

    Medicare Number?

  • Davidtheinfidel

    The book is Revelation, not Revelations.

  • Coyotenose

    They aren’t even taking the Bible literally. They’re taking it convenient to their desire to tell everyone that they’re persecuted martyrs.

  • http://profiles.google.com/davydd.norris David Philip Norris

    I agree that RFID chips aren’t the best idea in the world. There are serious privacy concerns and issues, and potential safety hazards. So they have a point in invoking the long shadow of Orwell. But “Mark of the Beast”? Please. This is isolationist, fearmongering, Biblically-induced hysteria. These people are not martyrs for “standing up for religious freedom.” It’s another excuse not to live by the same rules as everyone else.

  • drakvl

    I went to a school for the gifted for high school, but one day, in a classroom I was sitting near, I heard something like this nonsense. Someone mentioned a similar tracking system, and someone else vowed self-mutilation in the event of such a thing. It could have been a theater class, or it could have been a religious club; the idea that a teacher there would abuse authority in such a way just doesn’t make sense.

    This particular breed of Christian madness has been making the rounds for a while. I think the first I heard of it was on the radio show of the guy behind Newswatch Magazine (this was back when I lived with my dad). If you want a taste of crazy Christian, look that group up.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/ Hemant Mehta

    Dammit, I thought I caught them all. Missed one. Fixed!

  • ortcutt

    The Supreme Court put this nonsense to bed 26 years ago.


  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/ Kevin_Of_Bangor

    Hemant corrected it.

  • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty

    Right, because responsible adults being, you know, RESPONSIBLE, and keeping track of the students in their care for the day is just. so. EEEEVIL.


  • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty

    Eh, it’s more of a liability thing, I think.

  • kraken17

    This exactly. I wonder how many “codes” she has in her wallet right now.

  • WhiteBirch

    Somebody has to be That Guy. :P

  • Hsr2006

    Pres. Bartlett made that error in West Wing – very inconsistent with his character.

  • DougI

    I’m betting these crazies have a phone number.  With fundies the “mark of the beast” doesn’t ever apply to conveniences.  A digital frequency for a cell phone is acceptable, a radio frequency on a student ID, is evil, because, you know, the devil goes analog.

  • DougI

    Oh jeez, if you’re going to pose the protesters to make them look like a large protest you don’t begin with a wide shot, you start with the close shot.  Sheesh, these people can’t even do propaganda right.

  • Michaelbrice

    Watched the vid,  the presenters intro was pretty weird…………….

    “One young brave lady is standing up to the tyranny.”

    Then it got weirder

  • The Other Weirdo

     How did schools do it before RFID?

  • http://twitter.com/PirateFroglet Cathy McGrath

    By having more teachers like Hemant who actually CARE enough about their students to keep an eye on them. And more teachers period?

  • http://twitter.com/rlrose328 Kerri Russ

    You mean back before schools in large cities had to have police on campus to ensure kids would behave?  Before we had an entitled generation of spoiled brats who only know how to complain and be ungrateful for what they are given?

    Times have changed and kids aren’t like they used to be.  I felt naughty if I had to lie down to zip up my jeans, now girls dress like hookers to go to school.  A fist was all the guys needed to fight when I was in school.  Now, they use real weapons.

    And if they feel like leaving campus, they just do, no matter what the rules are.

  • Alt+3

    I actually had one of my brothers crazy religious in-laws become visibly unnerved when I told him my phone number was (***)***-0666. He already knew I was an atheist and this appeared to confirm I was of the devil.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Sandy-Kokch/100000074576649 Sandy Kokch

    InfoWars…..an Alex Jones headless chicken CT site.

    Wow….we really are trawling the depths of unreason now eh?

  • starskeptic

    Speak for yourself, man – look at the colors…

  • Trickster Goddess

    When I lived in Calgary, the phone numbers for all the federal government offices in the city were 666-****

  • Isilzha

    You THINK this is just crazy talk from one crazy person, but I frequently heard such things when I was growing up and forced to attend Southern Baptist churches.  What was funny is that our telephone number had 666 in the middle!  However, it was separated by a hyphen, so somehow that made it OK.  Still, almost everyone who was given our number made a comment on the 666 in it!

  • Isilzha

    I grew up in an ultra religious family with a 6-66 in the middle of our home telephone number.  I remember LOTS of discussion about it over the years.  My parents had that number for at least 20 years.  Anyway, somehow the hyphen negated the evil power of the triple sixes.

  • Isilzha

     Eh…the rest of the book is lies.  I bet the “s” is a lie too!

  • Hanna

    The last three digits of my passport number are 666, so I guess I’m the devil too.

  • 3lemenope

    My grandfather was a principal in a high school in upstate New York, and he told me they took weapons off kids all the time. We’re talking sixty years ago, here. 

  • Georgina

    Its a real shame!  Maybe they don’t know what an RFID is? Or how it works?
    I heard dangerous technology, Radio is dangerous? Wow.

    RFID coded bus tickets have been used in some countries to avoid delays during the rush hours.
    You don’t even need to show your season ticket, just have it on your person as you walk past the ticket reader.

  • Georgina

     What safety hazards? Every damn packet at the post office has a 2cent RFID chip, don’t see people running screaming from their parcels.

  • http://www.facebook.com/don.gwinn Don Gwinn

    Well, yes.  However, there are plenty of people who watch/read Infowars who would see no inconsistency here, because they do protest social security numbers in particular.  They actually have a point there; the social security number was actually never intended to serve as ID for any purpose except the Social Security program, either in benefits or taxation.  Because there was a perceived need for ID and no other handy form around, it became a national ID number by default as employers and others began to use it that way.
    It’s a little odd, though, in that people are worried that The Government and Big Corporations created these identifying number codes as a way to control The Sheeple, when as far as I can tell, the federal government actually tried to limit their use as identification.  If anyone made these things into “marks” on ordinary people, it was those ordinary people who chose to accept demands for numeric ID from employers, insurance companies, landlords . . . not the CIA or FEMA.

  • Jesusdoppelganger

    The girl and her parents are insane; but if my teenager were required to wear a tracking device, I’d get a restraining order too. There’s no indication for surveillance without probable cause.

  • Guesty Guest

    They aren’t mutually exclusive.

  • Matt O’Neal

    I just watched the video. I thought it was satire for the first couple of minutes.

    When the father said, “Children don’t need to be tracked.” He’s right.  And it reminded me of my five-year-old. Where is she? I don’t know. Maybe practicing knife throwing in the basement. Or playing out in the snow in her underwear. So yeah, we don’t need to keep track of our kids. They’re always doing what they’re supposed to be doing.

  • bernardaB

    Until this totalitarian rule is overturned, if I were a student, I would just leave my ID card in my locker or leave it at home.

  • http://twitter.com/porlob Patrick Orlob

    If I’m not mistaken (and I may be), RFID only works on a very short range, so it may keep track of the fact that a student passed through the school door or something like that. But it won’t allow government-sponsored pedophiles to hack the system and zoom in on a globe to find the exact location of schoolchildren within a meter.

    Maybe RFIDed student IDs are a bad idea. Maybe they’re not. But I can say that Alex Jones’ Info Wars is a terrible place to get information. And any reasonable, honest discussion of this topic won’t be had there. Or maybe I’m just saying that because I’m being mind-controlled by fluoride.

  • Stev84

    It depends on the exact technology and frequencies used, but mostly it’s in the range of  0.1 to 10 meters. Due to the low frequencies used on most tags, you need impractically large antennas to extend the range to 100 meters.

  • Achron Timeless

    On a privacy stance, I understand this. When you have to throw in “the mark of the beast” then you’ve completely lost all traction towards having a reasonable position.

    On that note, are people still upset about UPC codes on products? That was a huge thing when I was growing up.

  • pagansister

      Maybe they do not have any of those number’s listed above—-because they are illegal in this country ?    Just a thought.   But I agree—if they oppose the ID badge (and I think it is a violation of a person’s rights) they they should oppose everything you listed.   :o)

  • pagansister

     When my husband worked in PA, his phone number started with 666.  I just thought it was funny!   Little did I know I was supposed to worry about it!!  :o)

  • http://aboutkitty.blogspot.com/ Cat’s Staff

    And all you need to do to defeat anything trying to read them is get a RFID blocking wallet, or make one.

  • http://profiles.google.com/davydd.norris David Philip Norris

    Perhaps I should have said “risks” rather than “hazards.” There is the potential that the chips could be tracked by someone other than the school. If mobile phones can be easily hacked, someone with sufficient technological expertise could use the signal to kidnap a child. I can see RFID being exploited by desperate individuals. After all, the majority of kidnappings are committed by parents or family members as the result of disagreements or disputes over custody.

  • Deven Kale

    “You don’t even need to show your season ticket, just have it on your person as you walk past the ticket reader.”

    It’s precisely that which is the (real) problem though: You don’t have to show your card or give them any information in order to be counted/tracked. Depending on how secure the information is, there’s even the possibility that non-authorized persons can get your information without you having any clue they’ve done so. If these tags use a common RFID frequency and the response data isn’t encoded (I believe it’s usually not), just about anyone with moderate knowledge of RFIDs could get their personal information, and nobody would ever know. That’s why it’s dangerous.

    I would also think that it’s also unconstitutional as well since it removes a persons consent to giving out their personal information, but I’m not an expert in constitutional law. It just doesn’t seem right to me to have RFID’s containing a persons identifying information, and feels like a violation of civil liberties. After all, it’s perfectly legal to not give a cop your personal information without a warrant, because you have to give your consent. Why should it be different just because you go to a certain school?

  • Deven Kale

     It depends on the information they contain. Nearly all RFIDs contain identifying information, there’s actually where the ID part comes from. Most of the time it’s little more than what you’d find on a UPC, just easier to read because the scanner doesn’t need to worry about package orientation. Using them for packages/products isn’t a problem.

    The problem is using RFIDs to identify people. Anybody with the right knowledge and (surprisingly simple) equipment can also use it to track people without them even being aware of it. Even worse (in my opinion) is that there will be times when a person doesn’t want to give out their information, but anybody with the right equipment (authorized or not) can get it in spite of the person not consenting. I’m sure you can imagine all the potential abuses of such a system just as easily as I can.

  • pagansister

     Here in Florida a photo ID is now required to vote.  Moved here last year after 18 years in RI—and RI doesn’t require a photo ID for voting.  Lived in FL. one time before—in the early 1980′s—and at that time there was no requirement for photo ID.  I have been voting since I was 21, and in all the states (6)  I’ve lived in as an adult  none had that requirement.  Didn’t think it was right—but I wanted to vote. My husband doesn’t drive anymore, but got a license anyhow just for ID purposes.

  • mirele

    And the difference between this and Saudi Arabia’s “Let’s send out an SMS message to a woman’s guardian when she decides to leave the country” is?  (Women in Saudi Arabia cannot make the independent decision to travel; they must have permission of their male guardians.) My point is, these kinds of tracking mechanisms are odious.

  • Sindigo

    Maybe the director is a dissenter.

  • http://feygelegoy.com/ Feygele Goy

    I had a daily meal of pseudo-literal interpretations of Revalation in the 80s and early 90s. Just thinking about the “taste” makes me gag.

  • http://feygelegoy.com/ Feygele Goy

    @8ba5b5a2e335c2981d0d8c346e75e836:disqus , @drakvl:disqus 
    I remember a joke on Public Radio in the 90s when new area codes were being pmplemented, and someone “innocently” suggested Virginia Beach could get 666.

  • http://friendfeed.com/jim Pseudonym

    What part of “on their right hands or on their foreheads” is so hard to understand here? Or do they not actually believe in literal interpretation of the Bible?