After being suspended for refusing to wear an RFID bracelet that would've allowed her school to track her whereabouts, Texas high school sophomore Andrea Hernandez quickly filed a lawsuit, successfully delaying her punishment. Now, nearly two months later, a US District Judge has rejected the student's appeal, after determining that Hernandez's freedom of religion had not in fact been violated.
Hernandez originally refused to wear the bracelet because she and her family believed it symbolized the mark of Satan, as described in the Book of Revelations. Her school district said she would have to attend to a different school if she refused to wear the RFID tracker, prompting Hernandez and her family to take legal action. Judge Orlando Garcia at first granted a restraining order blocking her expulsion, but changed his tune this week, ruling that the school had done enough to accomodate Hernandez's religious beliefs.
"We must obey the word of God."
As a compromise, the Northside Independent School District agreed to let Hernandez remove the RFID chip from her bracelet, but insisted that she continue to wear it, as required of every other student. Hernandez's father claimed that the offer wasn't enough, telling the court, "We must obey the word of God," but Judge Garcia ultimately disagreed, much to the dismay of the Rutherford Institute, which represented the family.
"By declaring Andrea Hernandez’s objections to be a secular choice and not grounded in her religious beliefs, the district court is placing itself as an arbiter of what is and is not religious," the Institute said in a statement. "This is simply not permissible under our constitutional scheme, and we plan to appeal this immediately."
The district, on the other hand, was understandably more ebullient in its reaction. "Today’s court ruling affirms NISD’s position that we did make reasonable accommodation to the student by offering to remove the RFID chip from the student’s smart ID badge," the district said in a statement.