Concerns over privacy have aligned with apocalyptic Biblical prophecy in a proposed Virginia law that limits the use of microchip implants on humans because of a lawmaker's concern that the chips will prove to be the Antichrist's "mark of the beast."
On Wednesday, Virginia's House of Delegates passed a bill that forbids companies from forcing their employees to be implanted with tracking devices, a move likely to be applauded by civil libertarians.
But Virginia state Delegate Mark Cole's reasons for proposing the law have as much to do with the Book of Revelation as they do with concerns over privacy in the digital age.
Cole says he is concerned that the implants will turn out to be the "mark of the beast" worn by Satan's minions.
"My understanding -- I'm not a theologian -- but there's a prophecy in the Bible that says you'll have to receive a mark, or you can neither buy nor sell things in end times," Cole said, as quoted at the Washington Post. "Some people think these computer chips might be that mark."
Cole is not alone in making that assertion. Evangelical Outreach, a Web site run by pastor Dan Corner, states that "[w]ith modern technology, it is very possible that this mark may be directly linked with a computer chip."
"Radio frequency identification (RFID) implants are currently the prime candidate for this beastly technology," says the Riding the Beast blog.
David Neff, editor of Christianity Today, says that "this is part of a larger attempt to constantly read current history in the light of the symbolic language of the Book of Revelation," according to the Post.
Opponents of Cole's measure argue that it's "a solution in search of a problem," the Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star reports.
Virginia Democratic delegate Bob Brink said: "As I went door to door, there were a number of issues that never came up. I didn't hear anything about the danger of an asteroid striking the earth or about the menace of forced implantation of microchips in humans."
But Cole says it was his constituents who brought the issue to his attention. He says people are concerned that chip implants will replace employee ID badges in offices.
If passed by the full legislature, Virginia will become the fourth state in the US to have such a law. California, Missouri and Georgia have all passed a similar measure, or are working to pass one.
Momentum behind microchip implants has been building for years. Perhaps most significantly, Florida-based VeriChip introduced an implant in 2001 that can store medical data. The FDA approved the technology for use in humans in 2004.