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.
31 thoughts on “The Devil Came Down To Georgia: Christian Challenges Termination After Refusing To Wear Sticker With The Number 666”
Danny is correct that Title VII would require a reasonable accomodation and I doubt the employer could show an undue hardship as defined by the CRA for failure to wear a button. [Personally, I don’t think employees should be impressed into being walking billboards for companies unless they want to be]. The employer’s belief in the foolish nature of the observance is not a defense either. I think the man’s belief is about as wacko as most others based on faith instead of evidence but the law protects fool and philosopher alike.
“I don’t think the law gets to take sides about which version of “Christianity” is true, which is exactly what saying “this isn’t intrinsic to Christianity” would be.”
On rethinking this based on the above, I have to agree with you.
Solomon’s great wealth
2 Chr 1:13
The weight of gold that came to Solomon yearly was six hundred and sixty-six talents of gold.
Wow. Counter to the statements in your ultimate paragraph, the argument does have merit. Under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, employees are entitled to religious accommodations assuming that those accommodations do not represent an undue hardship to the employer. The compliantant needs to demonstrate that a non-essential part of the job violated a sincerely held religious belief; that’s it. Not wearing a sticker on one day is not an undue hardship. Batty as he may seem and counter to your baseless statement, the compliantant was not forcing anything on anyone; he just did not want to wear a sticker. Jeez.
“….what is acceptable religious interpretation by consensus of the churches and what’s cultist, contentious or just plain crazyville….”
As of there’s a difference in the first place. And then they ask a religious person to make that distinction? That’s hilareous.
“In the case of Muslim and/or Hebrew headwear it is intrinsic to each religion. As Mr. DuBois mentioned regarding Revelations, the significance of 666 is tangential to and most probably not even relevant to Christianity.”
That depends entirely on whose Christianity we’re talking about. I don’t think the law gets to take sides about which version of “Christianity” is true, which is exactly what saying “this isn’t intrinsic to Christianity” would be. Regardless of if they should be or not, there are Christians who believe the book of Revelation is entirely and literally true.
Thank you for your erudite, yet concise, comments on the dubiousness of The Book of Revelations being included in the Christian Canon. I’ve been aware of, and agreed with this argument for years, but must applaud your elegant framing.
As for this gentleman, I must agree with JT, that I think he has little cause of action. In the case of Muslim and/or Hebrew headwear it is intrinsic to each religion. As Mr. DuBois mentioned regarding Revelations, the significance of 666 is tangential to and most probably not even relevant to Christianity.
I have the feeling that the employee had performance and/or interpersonal issues well before the 666 incident, and that the incident made it so much easier and convenient to terminate his employment. I think much more latitude and accommodation would have been given to an employee who was beloved by the bosses and fellow employees.
Several years ago, US Route 666 in the southwest was changed to 471. I have one of the thick aluminum signs (from the sign shop as surplus) in my office, a hell of a place to be.
Legally Plaint Corporation may be within its right. So to would any citizen who refused to purchase any product from the Plaint Corporation (under the brands Blockade, Freshview and Glidefast, among others) or its parent Berry Plastics Corporation. It should be noted that 70% of Berry Plastics is owned by Apollo Managment and Graham Partners, not noted private equity firms. Hit them where it hurts.
I seldom, if ever, disagree with the comments of our dear Prof. but I think the term “devout Christian” is wrong, wrong, wrong…Stupid Fanatic seems much closer to the truth.
I think they should type “idiot” on this guy’s forehead. I am sick and tired of religious fantatics trying to claim that the world is trying to kill Christianity. Keep your religious beliefs to yourself and everyone will be fine.
Isn’t this the company that declared bankruptcy a couple of years ago and is now a sub. of Berry?
Sounds like someone in charge had a “bright” idea and when challenged decided he/she was too important to admit plastering numbers on people as if they were cattle or football fans was less than brilliant.
No accidents on the job saves money … getting sued costs money … Hyatt isn’t the one who should be fired.
Countless Christian theologians, scholars and clerics over the years have wanted to remove the Book of Revelation from the biblical canon because, as my thesis director, the late Very Rev. Michael Prokurat, of the American Orthodox church, explained “there is too much of chance of it scaring people unnecessarily.” It was scary when the laity were largely illiterate and didn’t have access to their own copies of the Bible, thus having to rely on the priests to rad it to them and explain it (or more commonly, rely on artistic representations like stained glass windows, which were open to interpretation themselves). But since the advent of printing and the increase in literacy, both which are inarguable goods, there is this catch: everyone gets to be their own biblical scholar and can interpret the Bible based on whatever learning or lack of learning their possess regarding how this particular book came about. When it’s left to individual ahistorical, scholarly interpretation like that, it’s little more than a weapon for ignorant, fearful people to express their ignorance and fear.
Scholarly consensus on the Book of Revelation is clear: it’s not about our times, but the time in which the author lived, and its highly symbolic writing style was meant to be understood only by those within the author’s own. probably very small and marginalized religious community, not by generations long after, especially those with little to no knowledge of the culture and historical events that gave rise to the book. The concept that 666 (or 616 is you are of that scholarly opinion) is inherently evil in some manner is absurd in this light. Even the text mentions, as a rhetorical prelude to revealing the number itself, that it’s the context that gives it meaning. Thus the reader would be right to assume that out of that context, it’s nothing special (bear in mind, we do not have any texts from Christian writers from before the Reformation that suggests the number was given special treatment by early or medieval Christians as well). It is very unfortunate for all of us that all the unlearned Biblical reader today seems to remember is the “number of the Beast” part, seeming to think that is a transferable meaning to any time the number appears in any other context.
Of course, Prof Turley is correct in saying the law is not obliged to entertain these irrational interpretations. My aforementioned thesis director occasionally was consulted on these sorts of cases, helping lawyers understand what is acceptable religious interpretation by consensus of the churches and what’s cultist, contentious or just plain crazyville. There is a line that can be legally observed here according to constitutional protections of freedom of religion: it’s one thing to take your experience of the world and then interpret it through religion, but it’s a whole other deal with try to afflict your religion onto the world. So if you want to insist that 666 (or 616) is evil regardless of context, fine, but you don’t get to make other people accommodate that belief at their expense.
Granted, it seems a bit excessive to fire someone for not wanting to wear a sticker. I do not know what they mean by “less than compliant”–if Hyatt was verbally abusive and hostile, for example, then I would understand. But if it turns out this firing was an excuse to get rid of an employee who was a little too annoying about talking about his religious views, I think he might stand a chance to win his case.
Why didn’t he take the day off and come back on 667? Why didn’t the company give him a day off? Why not make a temporary badge on the computer that says “Another Accident Free Day” ?
Either there is something else going on here, or the alternate realities we live in have become forged into steel. See David Frum in New York magazine this week for a discussion about our alternate realities.
I guess it is a good thing that pi was not in those scriptures.
What is next getting fired for wearing “the 99%”?
dont baseball players have certain superstitions?
The guy should not have lost his job over that.
In Mississippi, back in 1981, Waddell Laney saw a sign in a store window announcing sale prices. One item was prominently marked as on sale for $9.99. Laney knew the Devil worked his way upside down, realizing immediately that the sign was the Mark of the Beast. As he was reflecting on this, he got another revelation. The sign at the edge of town said ‘Kilmichael’ which was the name of the small town. That meant only one thing. The Archangel Michael was sending Waddell Laney a message that everyone in the town must be killed.
Waddell, in preparation for his role in ridding Montgomery County of the Beast, undertook to purify himself first. He circumcised himself with a double-bit axe on a stump in his back yard. His wife, understandably concerned, called the law and an order for civil commitment was obtained. When the sheriff and a deputy came to pick him up, Waddell realized the Beast of the Bible had sent them so he opened fire, killing the deputy immediately and wounding the sheriff.
Waddell never did get to rid Montgomery County of the Great Beast, since he is still a house guest of the State of Mississippi.
I actually think he has an argument here. It is along the same lines as requiring a Muslim employee to remove a head scarf. Thing is, firing an employee with 4 years of experience over refusing to wear a sticker seems ridiculous and makes me think there are underlying reasons.
I lived in Florida for a bit & once while in a drug store I was behind a woman with a couple of small items. Her total was $6.66 and she absolutely freaked out. She was visibly shaken and refused to buy the stuff until the checkout tossed in a package of gum & got the total off of the very scary number.
Superstitious minds are tiny & frozen in fear.
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