Last Friday, a friend told me his son had just obtained his driver’s permit. As part of the process, his son was photographed using facial recognition software. My friend understandably found this disconcerting.
Privacy intersects with religious freedom.
But beyond the intrusions into one’s privacy, technology has over time also implicated religious freedoms. Among some Christians, privacy violations morph into infringements of religious rights.
When taken to their inevitable stopping point, believers will defend their rights by objecting to privacy-intruding technology’s advance. This has been happening already, particularly among Christian evangelicals.
Several years ago, when subcutaneous microchips where being considered to track Alzheimer’s patients and soldiers in the field, the ire of evangelicals was raised. More recently, last September 2008, a group of Christian farmers filed suit on religious grounds to block the National Animal Identification System, which required use of radio frequency identification devices to track their cows. Use of the electronic numbering system was regarded a “mark of the beast” and a violation not only of their property rights but an infringement on their religious beliefs.
Fingerprinting requirement triggers suit.
This past week, a Texas kindergarten teacher on similar religious grounds objected to a state law requiring fingerprinting as part of a criminal background check. The Complaint, brought by Pam McLaurin against the Texas Education Agency, reads in part as follows:
Due to her religious beliefs, Plaintiff refuses to submit her fingerprint for the criminal history review. Plaintiff is a devout Christian and interprets the book of Revelations in a very literal sense. Specifically,
Revelations 13:16 through 17 and 14:9 through 11 which state:
“He causes all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on their right hand and 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…Then a third angel followed them saying with a loud voice – if anyone worships the beast and his image and receives his mark on his forehead or on his hand he himself shall also drink of the wine of the wrath of God…He shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb.”
These beliefs and interpretations regarding Revelations are not only held by Pam but by many Christian evangelicals. Pam McLaurin believes that the computerized fingerprinting is the mark addressed in Revelations. She does not believe that it is just coincidence that Revelations speaks about only those with the “mark on his forehead or finger” will be able to buy or sell, since only those teachers that comply with the fingerprinting requirements will maintain their jobs.
A strongly viable point of view.
Some may belittle the positions taken by the aforementioned plaintiffs. But to add additional understanding, the controversies emanate not only from sincere adherence to religious beliefs but to an abiding belief in Constitutionally-grounded principles. Government must not promulgate laws that interfere with the free exercise of a person’s religious rights.