An evangelical Christian woman who refused to provide her fingerprint to her employer because she thought it would brand her with “the mark of the devil,” and was fired as a result, is celebrating a victory in a Pennsylvania court.
The court ruled in favor of Bonnie Kaite, who was employed by Altoona Student Transportation starting in 2001. In 2015, when the company ordered her to submit her fingerprints for a newly required background check, she declined, saying it’s against her religion.
Judge Joseph M. Cosgrove wrote the court’s opinion, which overturned the findings of the state Unemployment Compensation Board of Review, according to Penn Live.
Cosgrove faulted the board for reaching that conclusion simply because Kaite belongs to no recognized religious group, but bases her beliefs on the teachings of her father.
“She testified that she believes fingerprinting is contrary to her religion and if she submits to fingerprinting she ‘will not get to go to heaven because I’m marked — the mark of the devil’,” Cosgrove wrote. That belief stems from her father’s interpretation of the Bible’s Book of Revelation, the judge noted.
The judge is correct that the mark of the devil — or more specifically the “mark of the beast” — is a Christian concept (Revelation 13:16–18). It started as a reference to “666,” but it has been morphed over time, and many modern believers (and conspiracy theorists) now think the simple biblical phrase is a prediction of government-ordered microchip implants in the right hand or forehead.
In order to believe this, however, adherents must completely ignore that the Bible says nothing about microchips and that such a system has never been instituted by any governing body. Just like most alleged prophecies, this mark-of-the-beast idea has been shown to be nothing more than a vague line of text that has been interpreted in numerous ways by people of various times.
The fingerprint also wouldn’t be a permanent mark, which makes the idea even more ludicrous.
It’s also hard to imagine that religious legal protections would apply to people who state that they don’t have religious beliefs, but even if we grant that, I think it’s dangerous to exempt people from thorough background checks based on religion. This is changing the rules to allow people to bypass security checks, and they don’t even have to prove that it’s part of their religious beliefs. It can just be something you heard, apparently.
The court saw things differently. Cosgrove compared Kaite’s refusal to adhere to the company’s fingerprinting policies to getting days off to celebrate religious holidays.
“This court has held that absence from work due to observation of a religious holiday constitutes good cause,” Cosgrove wrote. “It is analogous here that (Kaite’s) refusal to submit to a requirement that is in opposition to her religious beliefs would also constitute good cause for violating (her) employer’s policy.”
Unlike the judges, I don’t see how this comparison works. Observing religious holidays doesn’t raise any security concerns, and people do generally have to be a part of that religion to celebrate those days.
There’s still a chance this could be appealed, so we’ll keep you updated with what comes next.
(Image via Shutterstock. Portions of this article were first published in No Sacred Cows: Investigating Myths, Cults, and the Supernatural)