Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Unique Religion

In class we discussed that the more dominant religions in the world may have shaped the way we accept religious discrimination claims, and we asked, what about more less-known religions? Well below is a law suit by a person claiming to be of the Church of Body Modification, yes, you read it right, Body Modification. I've included the website of this church below the excerpt, so really, tell us what you think about her claim.

"Kimberly Cloutier, of West Springfield, MA, has filed a lawsuit against her former employer, Costco Wholesale Corporation, for religious discrimination. Cloutier, who wore an eyebrow ring, among other body piercings, for 2 ½ years while employed with Costco, was fired when the company changed its dress code to ban facial piercings, which she refused to remove claiming religious beliefs' She claims she wears them as a sign of faith, which helps to 'unite her mind, body and soul in her religious participation with the Church of Body Modification ­ "an interfaith church whose members practice an assortment of ancient body modification rituals, which [they] believe are essential to [their] spiritual salvation.' Cloutier filed a claim with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) which found in May, 2002 that Costco had 'probably violated religious discrimination laws' when they fired her. Because the company did not rehire her following the EEOC ruling, Cloutier has filed a $2 million lawsuit against Costco.
—Source: Union-News (Massachusetts)"

Website to Church of Body Modification:


Blogger Jessica Walker said...

Wow, that's quite an interesting religion. I particularly liked their answer to the following FAQ:

I just got fired for a piercing, if I join, can you help me get my job back or sue my employer?

NO. This is not a scam. You can't join just to protect your job - if you don't believe in the spiritual aspect we can not ethically offer you protection under the Church.

While there may be an inclination to dismiss a religion as not as real, I think it's good that the official definition is so broad. Otherwise, where would the line be drawn? I'd prefer to err on the side of protecting too many religions than protecting too few.

5:44 PM  
Blogger Professor Prenkert said...

Aldo scooped me on this. We're going to discuss it tomorrow in class. So, read up!

5:46 PM  
Blogger Ginger Tieman said...

Very interesting find, Aldo. My kudos. At first hand, this idea The Church of Body Modification seems really silly, but after giving it more thought it makes sense to me.

Historically, there a many instances of people alter their bodies in some way (i.e. tattoos, piercing, etc) to celebrate their beliefs, religion, and spirituality. In fact, I can recall examples from my own adolescence. Back in Boulder, on Pearl St. (think of it as a bigger Kirkwood or watch Mork & Mindy episodes), there are a lot of “sideshows” that perform. And one of the most unique was the “Boulder Bible Man.” Every Sunday for a couple of years, he’d be on Pearl Street telling people stories from the Bible using tattoos from his body. I kid you not, every limb told a different story and the Ten Commandments were tattooed on his chest. Out of morbid curiosity one day, I asked Boulder Bible Man why he chose to pictorially dictate the Bible on his body and to such an extent. He told me that it was his way of being closer to God—that by having the stories, psalms, and hymns that were closest to him on his body meant he’d never be able to forget them, never could abandon them that God now would always be with him. Furthermore, he consciously put the Ten Commandments on his chest so that they would be “near and dear” to his heart. It sounds cheesy and crazy on a computer screen, but in person it was one of the sweetest things you’ve ever heard.

Anyway, to return from my tangent, I also think why I find it reasonable is my personal definition of religion and spirituality. I find them to be two very distinct things, but in the same realm or family. I consider myself to be a spiritual person but not a religious one. To me spirituality is believing in something bigger than MAN (rather it a being or an idea), having faith, etc. While religion certainly encompasses these concepts, I find it to be a bit more specific in that it defines who/what that bigger thing is and how particularly to channel your faith, etc. in your life. I find I am not able to allow myself to that definitive, so that is why I do not consider myself to be religious.

I think because of the historical prevalence and because of how I personally define religion and spirituality, I am able to see the sense in this Church, and to consider it maybe not a religion, but certainly a valid spiritual path. Another reason I am not sure it can be a real religion is because of this FAQ:


Do I need to renounce my god to become a part of the Church of Body Modification?

The Church of Body Modification does not ask you to renounce any of your current faith. We are an interfaith Church and are happy to have you. Those who are already involved in a current relationship with another Church should be aware that the belief and lifestyle of those within the Church of Body Modification may not agree with your current Church teachings.

Now, to my knowledge (which is very limited, so if I’m wrong, please tell me so), I thought most traditional religions do not allow you to be members of two Churches of two different faiths. This is not to say you cannot accept other religions, or respect them, it’s just you technically can’t practice more than one, right? So the fact that the Church of Body modification allows you two be members of two Churches, and is more than okay with this, makes me think it’s more broadly spiritual than strictly religious. I hope that made sense.

P.S. This reminds me of the incident that happened a few years ago, where Australians or the British, I don’t remember which one, allegedly attempted to put “Jedi” on the census as a religion. Again, silly, but I can think of one embarrassing Star-Wars fanatic-geek (who for the sake of my reputation shall remain nameless as I can be directly associated with them) who’d at least consider checking the box.

11:52 PM  

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