"I have sworn upon the altar of God, eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man."

Thomas Jefferson
Sept. 23, 1800

Saturday, September 11, 2010

The Church of Body Modification?

A zero-tolerance policy has run up against freedom of religion in a high school in Clayton, North Carolina. It seems a 14-year-old girl was suspended for refusing to take out a nose stud. The school forbids jewelery of the eyebrows, lips and nose, but the girl and her mother are members of the Church of Body Modification and find spiritual peace through piercings.

From the Raleigh News & Observer...

Ariana Iacono, 14, was suspended from Clayton High for one day Wednesday when she refused to remove the small peridot stud in her nose. Ariana returned to school with the jewelry Thursday, then was suspended for three additional days.

Ariana and her mother, Nikki Iacono, take part in the Church of Body Modification, a small group with members across the nation. The church embraces spiritual growth through practices such as piercing.

The knee-jerk reaction to this may be to laugh at a "church" dedicated to body piercings. But if a hole in her nostril makes Ariana feel "whole," who am I to argue? The Church of Body Modification has a website, complete with a link to an application to be a minister. In this day and age, what better sign of legitimacy can one have? Religion is in the eye of the beholder, and has to be in a free society.

The real problem here isn't a strange church, it's the lack of common sense in school zero-tolerance policies. For whatever reason, and I'm sure it comes down to lawyers, we've taken all logic out of the hands of teachers and administrators and replaced it with hard and fast rules that lead to problems like this. A principal or teacher should be able to decide what is disruptive to the school. There is a difference between a small jewel stud in one nostril and a collection of metal hoops all over a kid's face. We should allow, and expect, educators to make those judgment calls, just as they should be able to treat aspirin and heroin differently and punish possession of a hand gun differently from possession of a nail file.

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