Start Your Own Religion

by Mark Shead on September 17, 2010

Some schools have rules saying that nose rings and other types of piercing are not allowed. No surprise there.  So how to do you get around the rule?  Just join the Church of Body Modification. Bingo! You are now dealing with religious discrimination.

This isn’t hypothetical.  There is  case in North Carolina right now where a fourteen year old member of the Church of Body Modification is suing the school.

The Church of Body Modification was founded in 1999 and seems suspiciously designed to enable these types of lawsuits. In 2001 there was a lawsuit against Costco where an employee wanted to be allowed to keep their eyebrow ring.  Originally the employee offered to cover it up, but later when Costco offered to allow this accommodation, she refused on “religious” grounds.

Costco ultimately won and the courts found that making an exception to allow the eyebrow ring would put undue hardship on the employer.  In other cases, people have been required to shave their beards–religion or no–because a particular job is unsafe when done with a beard.

The court avoided any discussion about whether or not the Church of Body Modification was a legitimate religion. The school board however, has a pretty specific criteria of what it takes to recognize something as a religion and it doesn’t sound like the requested exception met these requirements. They want to see a copy of the religious text that specifies the requested exemption along with a written statement by someone in authority in the church and examples of the students devotion to the religion.

The difference here is that most people recognize that not every job is for every person.  If I think it is “unclean” to touch dead pigs, I probably shouldn’t get a job as a meat packer at a place that processes pork. Employers are expected to make reasonable accomodations, but they don’t have to create a new business model around an employees religion.

However, most people feel that every child should be able to go to school and in most cases kids can’t simply move to another school where nose rings are allowed. So the outcome of this case may be very different than what happened at Costco.

There is an old Isacc Airfreight recording where a guy goes into a religion store and meets a number of people who are coming in to design their own religion.  Depending on the outcome of this case, that might not be a bad business model.  Here are some religions that I think would also go over well with high-school students.

  • Church of the Connected Mind – A church that believes divinity is achieved through constantly interconnecting with other humans. Being a member of this religion lets you text, talk and pass notes in class.
  • Church of True Reality – Believes that what everyone calls the “real world” is simply a big simulation and “true reality” is experienced in what most people call virtual environments.  Also believes that you should spend at least 15 minutes of every hour in the “true reality”. Joining this religion lets you play World of Warcraft and Second Life during class.
  • Caffeine Worshipers – Believes that enlightenment comes by having a cup of caffeinated product always in your hand. This one lets you get around any pesky rules about what you can bring to drink into the classroom.
  • Sleeporists – It is a sin to attempt to stay awake when your body can go to sleep.
  • Church of Music Edification – Believes that your soul is moved toward nirvana by listening to music all the time. Teachers can’t ask students who join this religion to take their headphones out.
  • Seven Minute Disciples – Believes that “true noon” actually occurs at what everyone else refers to as 12:07 each day and that it is sinful to follow the unbelievers time pieces. These students can’t be marked tardy until they are at least 7 minutes late.

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