Polk County teacher suing state over fingerprinting

LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) - A Polk County teacher is suing the state for requiring her to be fingerprinted for a background check, saying it violates her religious freedom.

According to her attorney, Scott Skelton, of Lufkin, Pam McLaurin believes the book of Revelation literally and that getting a fingerprint would bear her the mark of the beast and she would be "be tormented in burning sulfur."

McLaurin teaches at Big Sandy School District in Dallardsville, which is in Polk County.

Skelton said the case, which will be heard in the Lufkin federal court, is the only religious freedom case he knows of taken place in Lufkin and the only fingerprint case he is aware of in the United States.

Skelton said McLaurin, who has taught at the district for 20 years, is willing to undergo any other type of background check.

"She just doesn't want to be fingerprinted. That's all she doesn't want to have to do. She doesn't mind her background being checked out. She just doesn't want to submit to that. But TEA is not allowing an exception and so she is in this predicament," said Skelton.

He said the state is enforcing the rule on McLaurin, even though it is not supposed to go into effect until 2011.

Superintendent Kenneth Graham said the district will do whatever the state requires, but hopes it will allow McLaurin to continue teaching without being fingerprinted.

"A person's religious convictions are their own and we're not going to judge them as far as I'm concerned," Graham said. "My only consideration is that she does a good job for us and she is good for our children."

Wayne Haglund is the lawyer for the Big Sandy School District.

"The Constitution issues are very, very interesting, from a stand point of a conflict between a teacher's sincere upheld religious beliefs under the first amendment to the United States Constitution and the state's intent in providing a safe environment for children in the public schools," said Haglund.

Skelton said a preliminary injunction hearing is set in Beaumont on Nov. 12 to determine if the Texas  Education Agency can terminate McLaurin's license.

Revelation 13:16-17 in the King James Version states, "He also forced everyone, small and great, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on his right hand or on his forehead, so that no one could buy or sell unless he had the mark, which is the name of the beast or the number of his name."

Revelation 14:9-11 states, "A third angel followed them and said in a loud voice: "If anyone worships the beast and his image and receives his mark on the forehead or on the hand, he, too, will drink of the wine of God's fury, which has been poured full strength into the cup of his wrath. He will be tormented with burning sulfur in the presence of the holy angels and of the Lamb. And the smoke of their torment rises for ever and ever. There is no rest day or night for those who worship the beast and his image, or for anyone who receives the mark of his name."

Graham said McLaurin keeps her religious beliefs to herself and does not push them on students or other staff.

Skelton said McLaurin wished to not speak to the media about the matter.

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