Two decades ago, you could easily shock people by having a nose piercing. Now it seems like they are as commonplace as pierced ears. However, a piercing in the middle of your face has retained a serious level of conflict whereas whatever you do to your ears seems to have lost the "only Gypsies and hookers" judgments my mother described from her childhood in the 50s. Even the tiniest glint of metal along the edge of a nostril has resulted in dress codes being modified and arguments about personal expression versus "professionalism" or "appropriateness."
One realm where personal expression receives a blanket of protection is when how a person dresses is due to their religion. In the United States, there are laws which guarantee freedom of religion and these guidelines are what allows people to worship as they choose, or wear symbols of their religion while being protected against acts of discrimination. Or does it? While some parts of the world are getting heated up over head scarves, in the southern realm of the US, the body art battle just took a major turn.
In North Carolina, a fourteen-year-old girl has been repeatedly suspended for having a nose piercing. The school system says that such things are "distracting" and impede the education process. However, the teen in question and her mother are both members of the Church of Body Modification. As part of the Church's Statement of Faith is the paragraph, "We believe our bodies belong only to ourselves and are a whole and integrated entity: mind, body, and soul. We maintain we have the right to alter them for spiritual and other reasons." Having been recognized as an incorporated entity and tax-exempt group, just like other religions, this Church and its members get all the protections as other faiths... or do they?
The North Carolina school where this battle is taking place doesn't think so, even though their own rules state that dress code variations due to sincere religious beliefs are permitted. And so the American Civil Liberties Union has stepped up to the plate and filed suit on behalf of the teen.
Whatever the outcome of this battle, it's going to have repercussions that will ripple through schools and businesses all over America. Read more about this developing situation here.