Amish Object to Putting “Mark of the Beast” On Cattle

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The U.S. Department of Agriculture recently moved to dismiss a lawsuit filed by a group of Amish farmers who object to putting the "mark of the Beast" on their cattle.  The specific "mark" they are worried about is a radio-frequency ID tag that is being required by the state.

The plaintiffs are Michigan residents who are mostly members of the Old Order Amish Church.  While most of their claims are based on administrative law, they also say that being forced to use "an electronic numbering system for their animals constitutes some form of a 'mark of the beast' and/or represents an infringement of their 'dominion over cattle and all living things' in violation of their fundamental religious beliefs."  They argue that forcing them to accept the mark (or go out of business) would therefore violate the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

Plaintiffs cited about a dozen Bible verses on which their beliefs are founded.  The Book of Genesis — sort of the Marbury v. Madison of Biblical precedent — says that man was granted dominion over "the fish of the sea, the birds of the air, and the cattle, and over all the wild animals and all the creatures that crawl on the ground."  Genesis 1:26 (New American Bible).  I think there might be a few things missing from that list, but it's probably a translation issue.  I would still suggest going with the broader King James Version, which gives dominion over "the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth."  (Emphasis added.)  Personally I think it's especially important that we get ahold of the creeping things that creepeth, which is another reason I like this one better.

The other problem is that the Beast, when he showeth up, shall provide that "no one will be able to buy or to sell, except the one who has the mark, either the name of the Beast or the number of his name."  Revelation 13:17 (NAB)And accepting the mark is said to have somewhat more serious consequences, too, like being killed and then thrown into a lake of fire to burn for eternity.  See, e.g., Revelation 14:9-11, 16:2-16, 19:20, 20:4 (NAS).  This the Amish would prefer to avoid.

Sincerely held religious beliefs, of course, are protected by the First Amendment and federal law.  RFRA prohibits any substantial burden on a person's exercise of religion unless the governmental interest is compelling and the government has chosen the "least restrictive means" of furthering it.  42 U.S.C. sec. 2000bb-1.  Plaintiffs say that the government's stated interest (limiting disease) may be compelling, but requiring RFID tags is not the least restrictive means of furthering that.

In its motion to dismiss, the U.S. Department of Agriculture argued that its provisions are "voluntary," and that it's the state that actually requires them.  Thus doth it place the Land of Michigan in league with Satan, at least for purposes of the U.S. Code.

Link: Wired's Threat Level Blog (Nov. 13, 2008)