Another apparently unsolvable conflict of church and the state in the guise of public schooling: a girl in North Carolina has been suspended from school for wearing a (very small) nose ring, which is against the dress code, unless the child has a religious reason, which this child claims to do, as she’s a member of the Church of Body Modification.
It has, AP reports, “a clergy, a statement of beliefs and a formal process for accepting new members.” Their minister says that the school is saying that ”because they don’t agree and because they choose not to respect our beliefs, that it can’t be a sincerely held religious belief.” He
describes the church as a non-theistic faith that draws people who see tattoos, piercings and other physical alterations as ways of experiencing the divine.
“We don’t worship the god of body modification or anything like that,” he said. “Our spirituality comes from what we choose to do ourselves. Through body modification, we can change how we feel about ourselves and how we feel about the world.”
The church claims roughly 3,500 members nationwide, having started about two years ago, after adopting the name of a similar group that had been dormant for several years.
What makes this group religious escapes me, beyond the fact that it has a point of view and is organized in the same way as some existing religious bodies. A desire for change and feelings about the world are not in themselves particularly religious. The group’s Statement of Faith does not help answer this question.
But on what grounds can a public body, like a school or a court, declare the Church of Body Modification not religious, especially when freedom of religion has been subsumed under a more general freedom of conscience? What, besides pedigree, differentiates them from certain old religious bodies that have decayed into ethical societies with weekly lectures?
Thanks to Worldwide Religious News for the link.