Mark of the Beast

What’s going on here?

West Virginia started Friday keeping driver’s license photos out of a computer database for members of a small religious group who believe digital storage is a “mark of the beast” that evokes biblical prophecy.

State Division of Motor Vehicles Commissioner Joseph Cicchirillo said the group of about 50 or 60 Christians, who are not affiliated with a particular church, contacted the agency two or three years ago to object to their pictures “being on a database that can be exchanged throughout the world or hacked into.” […]

Without this accommodation, group members wouldn’t get their driver’s licenses, which the commissioner said would hamper their ability to get everyday services from insurance coverage to check cashing.

I’m all for religious accommodation, but this is a bit ridiculous. This “Mark of the Beast” nonsense is not a theological point, like the Sabbath. Its appearance in the Bible is so vague that it could be interpreted many ways. “I don’t want to clock in — it’s the mark of the beast.”

Indeed, the story includes something just that bizarre:

One of the group members is Phil Hudok, who made headlines in 1999 when he was fired as a Randolph County school teacher for refusing to require his students to wear bar-coded identification badges. Hudok was later reinstated after a circuit judge said the school board had made no attempt to accommodate his religious beliefs.

How exactly was the school to accommodate these beliefs?

And just how insane do religious beliefs have to be in order for some one to say, “That’s too much.”

Can a racist who bases his racism on twisting passages of the Bible refuse to work with a black man because it offends his beliefs? Can a Muslim refuse to work with a woman because it offends his religious beliefs?

The State should accommodate religious beliefs when it doesn’t include re-inventing a whole data management system for a few individuals (as is the case with the article above) and when the belief is not some fringe belief held by a handful of paranoid idiots.

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4 thoughts on “Mark of the Beast

  1. Thud says:

    “…and when the belief is not some fringe belief held by a handful of paranoid idiots.”

    That’s a grey area there and subject to a lot of creepage. People need to accomodate other people’s religious beliefs to the extent that they are not directly harmful to others and do not interfere with one’s responsibilities. Hudok’s responsibilities include helping insure the safety of the school and enforcing school rules — if he is uncomfortable with those, he does not need to teach. Likewise, pharmacists who are afraid they will be asked to prescribe medication that violates their religious rules should find another career.

    But if it harms none, the state should accommodate all sorts of weirdness because it is not the state’s job to decide what in religion is nutty and what’s not.

  2. G. Scott says:

    How do we determine harm? What about fiscal harm — the increased time it takes for government workers to perform tasks in an effort to accommodate religious beliefs costs us all in inefficient use of tax money?

  3. […] bookmarks tagged beliefs Mark of the Beast saved by 13 others     josette54 bookmarked on 08/10/08 | […]

  4. Thud says:

    Accommodation of, and tolerance for, religious beliefs is supposed to be a core American value, so you can’t just wave it away because it’s inconvenient. You could argue away almost any right on the grounds of accommodating those rights not being “efficient,” including free press, free speech, and due legal process. (In fact, the latter is very much under attack right now on the grounds that it’s a waste of time to get a warrant for a search or phone tap.)

    The notion of “reasonable accommodation” is not foreign or new to US law — we have the same kind of thing for hiring people who are handicapped. You have to make reasonable accommodations for people to do the job, but no one is arguing that a quadriplegic is entitled to a job unloading mail trucks. It seems to me the same principle can apply in religious accommodation.

    You shouldn’t be able to insist that you deserve a paycheck even though you’re not doing your job because your religion prohibits you from doing your job. But the government should not generally have the ability to discard or ignore people’s religious beliefs because those beliefs are mildly inconvenient or weird. Otherwise, the second amendment is pretty much pointless.

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