I read a very interesting article today that I came across on Yahoo’s homepage. The title of the article is “NC Teen: Nose Ring More Than Fashion, It’s Faith”.
Apparently, a high school girl in North Carolina has been suspended for wearing a nose ring against school dress code. At issue is the girl’s (and her mother’s) claim that she has the right to wear her nose ring because it is a part of her religion. She and her mother belong to the “Church of Body Modification”. They argue that this issue falls under protections offered by the First Amendment.
The Church of Body Modification has “a clergy, a statement of beliefs and a formal process for accepting new members.” I guess this is the primary argument that this is a real religion. One of the church’s own clergy defines the church as “a non-theistic faith that draws people who see tattoos, piercings and other physical alterations as ways of experiencing the divine.”
This is an interesting case. It has really raised the question about what qualifies as a true religion. Who decides if a religion is authentic or just a clever way for a group of people to beat the system?
One interesting thing that the article brings up is the fact that the courts have dealt with the Church of Body Modification in the past. “…a woman was fired from her job at a Costco store over her eyebrow ring. The woman was also a member of the Church of Body Modification, but the courts eventually ruled that her religious beliefs did not require her to always wear her jewelry.”
This decision does not seem to bode well for the high school girl in this case.
Here are some of the comments posted by Yahoo! users (there are many more):
Stuart wrote: hmmmm, this gives me an idea. Can I go ahead and start my own religion and set up a clergy, get a statement of beliefs etc? My main tenent is going to be that it is against my religious beliefs to pay any taxes. What do you bet I could get more converts than this just as made up and just as phony religion?
JeanetteP wrote: nobody is forcing her to go to that school . she has freedom to choose a different school. “oh im so oppressed”. Really?! why are we wasting time on this ridiculous topic. if i join the church of violent crusades at school (not a real organization) do i get to be violent at school in the name of religion. We couldnt pray at our high school graduation because of the separation of church and state yet she gets to wear a stinkin nose ring? If i cant pray at school why should she get to wear that thing. im tired of double standards.
Lorain wrote: Ok, this is ridiculous. First off I have 3 piercings on my face (nose, lip and micro dermal) and am SHOCKED this is getting this far. The “Church of body modification” is a joke, invented EXACTLY for this purpose. I’m sorry but some random 14 year old girl with a nose ring should NOT be tolerated in school. End of subject. We have rules and guidelines for a reason and whats next? All the kids in school, just make up a religion (or “join” this pre fabricated one!) and dress and act like you want! Please, school is for learning and building an education. Obviously this girl and her mother are more interested in a fashion statement than an education which is sad. The “mother” should stop wasting time and just put the girl on the streets, which is where she is headed with this kind of attitude and disregard for education. Good job!
So, what do you think? About this particular situation? About how to determine if a religion is legitimate or simply a way for people to get their own wishes?