Freedom of religion is always a tricky subject, especially when applied to a high school setting. Sure, no high school officials in their right minds are going to ban a student from wearing a necklace with a crucifix attached to it to school. But what if a student’s religion goes beyond necklaces? What if it goes into piercings and the like, as “preached” by The Church of Body Modification?
A 14-year-old North Carolina high school student, Ariana Iacono, and her mother claim membership to the Church of Body Modification and are protesting the student’s expulsion from school over a nose ring.
Ariana Iacono says she just wants to be a normal teenager at Clayton High School, located about 15 miles southeast of Raleigh. She has been suspended since last week because her nose ring violates the Johnston County school system’s dress code. Via AP
According to the AP, Iacono and her mother, Nikki, belong to the Church of Body Modification, a small group unfamiliar to rural North Carolina, but one with a clergy, a statement of beliefs and a formal process for accepting new members.
It’s enough to draw the interest of the state chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, which has contacted school officials with concerns that the rights of the Iaconos are being violated by the suspension, according to the AP.
The Iaconos say the school system is ignoring its own dress code policy, which allows exemptions on religious grounds. The effect, Nikki Iacono, 32, says, is that Johnston County school officials are setting themselves up as judges of what constitutes a “real” religion, according to the AP.
It brings back the age old question of “what is a religion?”
It’s a bit of a Catch-22. There is supposed to be separation of church and state, but it seems like the state has to acknowledge the existence of a religion for it to get any sort of … well… recognition and status.
Don’t expect this one to go quietly.