In Texas, a federal court will soon rule on high school student Andrea Hernandez’s claim that her high school shouldn’t require her to wear an RFID tag to track her movements because it is an infringement on her religious freedom. She and her family believe these microchips are akin to the “mark of the Beast” mentioned in the book of Revelation. The Rutherford Institute, a civil rights and religious liberty legal organization, has taken up her case, and says:
“While we all want to ensure that our schools are safe, especially in the wake of this terrible shooting in Connecticut, these RFID tracking badges will do little to ensure student safety and, in fact, could potentially be manipulated in such a way as to make students even more vulnerable to attack by predators,” said John W. Whitehead, president of The Rutherford Institute. “No matter how many ways school officials attempt to justify this program, the key here, as NISD officials have themselves acknowledged, is the fact that this program is about one thing only—making money for the schools at the expense of students’ constitutional rights and potentially their safety.”
The Northside Independent School District in San Antonio, Texas, has launched a program, the “Student Locator Project,” aimed ostensibly at increasing public funding for the district by increasing student attendance rates. As part of the pilot program, roughly 4,200 students at Jay High School and Jones Middle School are being required to wear “SmartID” card badges embedded with an RFID tracking chip which will make it possible for school officials to track students’ whereabouts on campus at all times. School officials hope that by expanding the program to the district’s 112 schools, they can secure up to $1.7 million in funding from the state government.
Fifteen-year-old Andrea Hernandez has been penalized, discriminated against, and retaliated against by school officials for objecting to being forced to participate in the RFID program. For Hernandez, a Christian, the badges pose a significant religious freedom concern in addition to the obvious privacy issues. Andrea’s religious objection derives from biblical teachings that equate accepting a personalized code—as a sign of submission to government authority and as a means of obtaining certain privileges from a secular ruling authority—with a form of idolatry or submission to a false god.
Laugh at Hernandez’s religious objection if you want to, but do you really want to live in a society in which people — innocent people who have committed no crime — have been conditioned to accept electronic monitoring by authorities of their every move? Andrea Hernandez’s reasoning may be senseless to you, but this is an important principle. If my kid were in that school, I would object too, for reasons of civil liberties and, well, standing up for the dignity of a free citizen of a free nation.