San Antonio RFID Tracking Chip Student Loses Appeal

The San Antonio student who sued her school for forcing her to wear an RFID-equipped school ID because she claimed it was in violation of her religion has lost her appeal, the BBC reports. After wearing the ID was made mandatory, 15-year-old Andrea Hernandez stopped wearing hers, claiming that it represented "the Mark of the Beast," something prohibited to Christians in some denominations.

Her refusal earned her a suspension from John Jay High School, so her family filed a lawsuit claiming that the RFID ID policy infringed on their First Amendment rights. The judge granted an injunction and allowed Andrea to return to school while the case was being decided — and wearing the ID would not be required.

Just recently the federal court amended this ruling, saying that if Hernandez chose to continue at John Jay, she must wear the badge. Otherwise she needed to seek a transfer elsewhere.

The new identification policy at the Northside Independent School District (NISD) in San Antonio, Texas, began at the start of the 2012 school year. John Jay High School is one of two schools piloting the programme, which eventually aims to equip all student badges across the district's 112 schools with radio-frequency identification (RFID) chips. The badges reveal each student's location on their campus, giving the district more precise information on attendance.

The daily average of the attendance is related to how much funding each school receives.

Chapter 13 of the Book of Revelation talks about the mark of a beast, a symbol carved onto the people themselves in order to be allowed to participate in their society. Andrea and her family believed that the trackable ID fell under that rubric and was thus forbidden to Christians. As a compromise, Northside district officials offered to let her wear the ID without the tacking chip in place, but the family rejected the proposal, saying it is the obligation to keep the badge always visible was what made it unpalatable.

District spokesman welcomed the ruling, saying that the judges acknowledged that the district and the school went above and beyond in their attempt to meet Hernandez half-way.

The initial restraining order filing in the district court was spear-headed by The Rutherford Institute, a civil liberties advocacy group who claimed that the requirements to wear the badge violated Andrea's rights under Texas law that protects religious expression.

At the time the retraining order was granted, TRI hailed it as a victory for religious freedom:

"The court's willingness to grant a temporary restraining order is a good first step, but there is still a long way to go – not just in this case, but dealing with the mindset, in general, that everyone needs to be monitored and controlled," said John Whitehead, president of The Rutherford Institute in a statement.

01 10, 2013
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