Jewish Journal


September 16, 2010

The First Amendment and the Church of Body Modification



Until a few minutes ago, I’d never heard of the Church of Body Modification. Here’s what their mission statement says:

We, the congregation of the Church of Body Modification, will always respect our bodies. We promise to always grow as individuals through body modification and what it can teach us about who we are and what we can do. We vow to share our experiences openly and honestly in order to promote growth in mind, body, and soul. We honor all forms of body modification and those who choose to practice body modification for any reason. We also promise to respect those who do not choose body modification. We support all that join us in our mission and help those seeking us in need of spiritual guidance.

I’m still not clear on what body piercings have to do with spirituality, or exactly what kind of spirituality they are talking about. But that doesn’t mean this church wouldn’t qualify as a religion. As I’ve discussed before, religion has two very general criterion: they provide followers with a sense of the sacred and they bond them together in community.

This church is getting a lot of attention today because one of its members, a 14-year-old girl named Ariana Lacono (not pictured), was suspended from school for violating the dress code by sporting a nose piercing. Lacono and her family are crying foul, saying the school violated her First Amendment rights.

Her mother, Nikki Lacono, told the Associated Press:

“We pretty much flat-out asked them, what guidelines are you following? What do you need to establish a sincere religious belief?,” she said. “We were told that if we were Hindu, or she were Muslim, it would be different.”

The school district, of course, is now mum on the topic. But read on in the AP story and you’ll see that the Laconos’ minister, Richard Ivey (listed on the church’s website), sharing some of their religion’s tenants:

“Through body modification, we can change how we feel about ourselves and how we feel about the world.”

Call me skeptical, but I’m not really getting much of a sense of the sacred here. I mean, new outfits and good books can accomplish the same.

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