Monday, September 20, 2010

A Piercing Argument

  Last week 14 year old Ariana Iacono was suspended from Clayton High School in North Carolina because she had a piercing on her nose. This was a violation of the school's dress code. Since the dress code offers exemptions on spiritual, cultural, and religious grounds, Iacono claimed a religious exemption based on her membership in the Church of Body Modification, which is an incorporated church of 3,500 members registered as a non-profit organization in Pennsylvania (20 members are in North Carolina). According to the church’s website, it is their belief that ‘body modification is one of the safest and most societal responsible ways to stay spiritually healthy and whole. We accept the possibility that there are other means to this end, but for us, this is our chosen method.’ and that body modification is defined as “anything that involves a significant modification to the body. In this we include piercing, tattoos, scarification, reconstructive and cosmetic surgery and the many other ways in which the physical biological development of the body can be controlled and subverted”. The church also defines body manipulation as “body suspension, hook pulling, play piercing, fasting, binding, corsetry, firewalking, and other rituals that test and push the limits of the flesh and spirit”.

  By these definitions Iacono and her nose ring is not exactly a body modification John the Baptist. Dress codes are one of the things school districts try to establish uniformity and eliminate distractions among the school population. The ACLU is looking into taking up the case for Iacono’s nose ring. It is ironic that the ACLU will fight to have the 10 commandments taken out of public buildings and prevent the pledge of allegiance being said in schools because it contains the word 'God', but will defend the Church of Body Modification’s right to practice their customs in these same public schools. If the Iacono’s win, I hope there is not a ‘Church of Walking Around with a Bomb Strapped to your Chest’ somewhere believing true enlightenment is attained by walking around with a bomb strapped to your chest. But even if there is not, surely there will be the ‘Church of Being Nude Everywhere’, the ‘Church of Going Everywhere with Your Pet Hamster’, or the ‘Church of 2+2=5’ all demanding their own exemptions to any school system rules.

  In my opinion, the school system has made a tactical error by allowing ANY exceptions. What allows the ‘Church of Body Modification’ to claim discrimination is that since exceptions are allowed, the school authorities are now in the position of determining what a worthy exception is and what is not. And once the nose piercing is allowed, can corsetry, binding, and hook pulling be far behind in the school system? A set of rules in a public forum should be applicable to all. Then the wisdom of the rules can be debated instead of the wisdom of the exceptions. And if the ‘Church of Body Modification’ doesn’t approve of the rules, they can start their own schools just like the christian learning academies for parents who want to have religious education for their kids. I wonder, will Iacono would be able to get into the School of Body Modification with just a nose piercing? I imagine not, but she may have dozens of body modifications that we don’t know about and would make the honor roll.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

‘Church of Walking Around with a Bomb Strapped to your Chest’? EXPLODING FOR THE LORD