‘Mark of the Beast’ fears spark legal challenge over student tracking chips
At a protest last month, John Jay High School sophomore Andrea Hernandez called the school’s newly-mandated student-tracking system a violation of her religious rights. “I feel that it’s the implementation of the Mark of the Beast,” she told Infowars.com, the brainchild of Austin-based libertarian and conspiracy theorist Alex Jones.
For months Hernandez and her family have fought with Northside ISD officials over the district’s “Smart ID” pilot program, which puts radio frequency tracking chips in student IDs. Starting this year, all 4,200 John Jay High School students must wear the new ID tags, which track their movement around campus. Northside has said that it may in the future expand the program to all of the district’s 112 schools.
While civil liberties groups have loudly decried Northside’s pilot program as an Orwellian breach of privacy, the Hernandez family has largely objected on religious grounds. They’ve protested outside the school, spoken out at school board meetings, and Hernandez this month tried to pass out fliers on campus criticizing the program.
Last week, Hernandez’s father got a letter from the district saying his daughter’s no longer welcome at John Jay High School. The district instead ordered her to report to Taft High School when school resumes Monday, Nov. 26.
The Hernandez family called on the Rutherford Institute, an East Coast civil liberties group. Institute president John Whitehead told the Current the group plans to file for a temporary restraining order Wednesday to keep Northside from kicking Hernandez out of John Jay. Northside officials couldn’t be reached for comment.
“The key here is these people have strong religious beliefs, and they stand by them,” Whitehead said. “There are a number of Christians, evangelicals that feel any kind of tag or device you put on people like that could be the Mark of the Beast out of Revelation.”
For evangelicals like Hernandez, the tracking-chip program bears an eerie resemblance to the end-times warnings in Revelation 13:16-18, which speak of the so-called “Mark of the Beast”:
“He causes all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on their right hand or on their foreheads, and that no one may buy or sell except one who has the mark or the name of the beast, or the number of his name.Here is wisdom. Let him who has understanding calculate the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man: His number is 666.”
In the letter to Hernandez’s father, district officials say Hernandez would be allowed back to John Jay if she wore the student ID without the battery and tracking chip. The Hernandez family, who couldn’t be reached for comment, has refused, according to Whitehead. “They felt that would be endorsing a program they fundamentally can’t support on religious grounds,” he said.
John Jay students use the new ID s to access the school’s library, cafeteria, and to sign up for extracurricular activities. “This student could not use the library facilities, the cafeteria facilities, she wasn’t even allowed to vote for the homecoming king and queen,” Whitehead said. “So she’s already suffered damage. She’s being treated unequally.” — Michael Barajas
*Update: A Bexar County judge granted the Rutherford Institute’s request for a temporary restraining order Wednesday, the organization said in an email Wednesday afternoon. There will be a court hearing on the preliminary injunction next week. You can read the Rutherford Institute’s court filing here.