Religious Advice

The following message just came to me, and since it's not an uncommon question, I'm going to include it here. Please keep in mind that I'm not a lawyer, so if you want a fully qualified answer, you'll need to pay more dearly for it (specialized civil liberties lawyers probably don't come cheap).

I have read in the past that a toung ring has many religious significance, but unfortunately I am unable to produce anything in writing right now. My husbands job is demanding written proof that indeed there is a special meaning to his toung ring. I have been searching the web and have come up empty handed. Please, if there is anything that you can do to help me I need something ASAP! Thank you anything you can do.

Yesenia in Colorado

This was my response:

On a historical level, tongue piercings are very rare. As far as a permanent piercing, they first popped up in turn of the century (as in early 1900s) sideshows, but never really became common until the 1990s, and are now one of the most common piercings. There are cultures (notably in South/Central America, and in South East Asia) that practised temporary tongue piercing as a religious ritual, often as a part of bloodletting ceremonies.

That said, you're asking me for an excuse — you're asking me to help your husband lie — it's not as if he was raised as an Aztec priest (although if he is of Aztec descent, you might be able to make a strong case). Spiritual meaning isn't something that you look up on the internet to circumvent the law. If your husband's “toung ring” is spiritual enough that he is unable to remove it to work, he would know it, and should be able to explain it on some level. If not, then no amount of paperwork will add this spirituality.

I can't see any way that in this situation you are going to be able to justify your husband's tongue piercing as a religious act.

That said, there may be other ways to protect his piercing. First, let me suggest that he offer them a compromise, and buy jewelry to make the piercing less obvious — for example, acrylic retainer jewelry, no-c-um balls, or even just a purple barbell. Make it clear to them that the piercing is important to him, but that he understands their concerns and is willing to try and find a solution that keeps everyone happy. This is quite likely a far simpler route than a legal battle.

Unfortunately because you're living in the United States you have far less rights to freely express yourself than in most other Western countries (if you were living in Europe or Canada I'd be able to give you more pleasant advice since most other countries hold rights of self-expression as fundamental), but another alternative would be actually looking closely at the company's dress code laws when he first got the piercing — they may well actually say nothing about piercings. Because it could be argued that the piercing is permanent and can not be removed without losing the piercing (tongue piercings can close in an hour on some people, even ones they've had for a long time), if he was hired (or pierced) while the dress code allowed him to have his tongue pierced, he might be able to make the case that it was a deciding factor in taking the job (and be “grandfathered” in).

Finally I should mention that there are groups in the US fighting for your rights — if this actually escalates, you should get in touch with biker's rights advocates, as they face very similar discriminatory actions.

Good luck…

Wow Shannon, that's really annoying! What is it, 1997 on Geocities? Retroweb is NOT cool!

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