There is an interesting religious challenge in Georgia where factory worker, Billy E. Hyatt refused to be marked with the sign of “the Beast” and was fired by Plaint Corporation. Plaint found Hyatt less than compliant when he was asked to put on a sticker proclaiming that the plastic factory was accident-free for 666 days. He refused and said that, to do so, would have cost him his eternal soul. Instead, it cost him his job and he is suing.
A devout Christian insisted that the number would mark him with the number of the Beast as detailed in the Bible’s Book of Revelation. He had worked for the north Georgia plastics company since June 2007 and said that he “grew nervous” when the number of accident-free days crept town the 660s. Rather than engineer an accident, however, he tried to explain that wearing the number would condemn him to hell. After a three-day suspension, he was fired at a human resources meeting. He is now seeking not just back pay but punitive damages under the theory that the company was making him choose between his job and abandoning his God.
There are a couple of problems with the claim. First, I have already identified the Beast in a prior column as Michael Eisner, former CEO at Disney. Second, many scholars believe the actual number is 616, not 666. It turns out that 666 may be the ancient equivalent to a typo. Papyrus 115 is a fragmented piece of papyrus that dates back to the 3rd century and was not translated until the 20th century. Researchers were surprised to see that the papyrus included “616” as the sign of the Beast. If true, Hyatt was likely already wearing the number and lost his soul 50 days before (yes, I would like the company lawyers to make this argument with attribution in the upcoming hearing).
Here are the more often read passages:
Revelation 13:16 And he causeth all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and bond, to receive a mark in their right hand, or in their foreheads:
Revelation 13:17 And that no man might buy or sell, save he that had the mark, or the name of the beast, or the number of his name.
Revelation 13:18 Here is wisdom. Let him that hath understanding count the number of the beast: for it is the number of a man; and his number is Six hundred threescore and six. (666)
This passage has previously led to problems when 666 appears on papers or in conversation for some Christians.
The more serious problem is that the legal basis lacks any merit. It is ridiculous to suggest that a company must conform to such eccentric or extreme religious views. If someone wants to go through life avoiding a particular whole numbers, they are free to do so like those people who will stay at a hotel with thirteen floors but not one with a 13th floor on the elevator. You cannot, however, force everyone else to adhere to your idiosyncratic obsession.