I've seen a few of you posting the ad/note that I've included here on the right on your page, regarding the defense of Steve and Alva. I am helping support their legal costs, but I object to that ad, and I really felt that something had to be said about what I feel is deceptive fundraising. As I said, I am supporting the defense financially, and I hope others will as well, but if you're going to, it has to be for the right reasons and with knowledge of what you're supporting.
This note pretty much flat out says that the charges were related to piercing — the shop is referred to as a “piercing only” shop and it is implied that piercing is what they were charged for. This is not the case — as far as I know, none of the current charges are related to piercing. Not a single one. As I understand it they have been charged practising medicine without a license after allegedly cutting off a young woman's labia in the studio. There may also be other charges along the same lines, but you get the picture.
I feel it is extremely immoral to raise funds for a defense when misleading the public as to what the charges are about. It is my hope that this being done by a well-intentioned but misguided third party, and that Steve and Alva are not in support of this strategy. (What I'm saying is I'm very happy someone has taken the initiative to help their defense, but I hope people will consider the ethics behind misleading people who want to help you.)
Not that it's relevant, but personally I think they had a serious lapse of judgement, assuming that the charges are valid, and I hope they will not do these things again even if they are cleared of all charges. My personal feeling is that procedures outside of scarification, tattooing, piercing, and minor beading should under no circumstances be offered to the general public unless the practitioner has appropriate medical training. I do think people have a right to do it on themselves and on their close friends, but not on the public.
That said, I wanted to make clear why I support this defense, and why I hope others will as well:
- Because a guilty verdict in this case has the potential to set precedents that could hurt us all. I'm all for keeping heavy mods out of studios, but at the same time, I hope that any verdicts do not encroach on people's rights to control over their bodies.
- Because threatening them with five years imprisonment is extreme. It seems vindictive and, unless I've been misled on the facts of the case, it really seems like an “out to get 'em” act by the prosecution.
- Because I don't believe that a definition of “what is a surgical procedure” has been adequately given to piercers or the public. Given that a number of people have been able to very publicly showing off their “extreme mods” on mainstream television without charges, I can see how a piercer might assume that they're legal.
- Because I believe that these two — both Reverends — were specifically targetted for their CoBM involvement, which obviously the government has no right to even take into consideration. Personally, I don't believe that the religious defense (or the religion) is valid, but that does not justify the prosecution's actions.
I know a lot of people are throwing around the “but it's my religion” defense. Let me point out that African and Middle-Eastern cultures have had no luck winning the legal right to cut off their children's bits (or even to continue with multi-thousand-year-old facial scarification traditions), and they have enormous cultural history to back it up. Let me point out that Rastafarians have had no luck winning the right to use marijuana, which clearly has tens of thousands of years of religious use all over the planet. Finally, let me point out that it was only about a month ago that the Supreme Court ruled that tattooing was NOT protected by the first ammendment. Finally, in the abscense of any historical precedent, let me point out that to raise this defense one would have to explain why the religion demanded that the person cut off their labia. Valid or not, there is no way that US courts will accept a religious defense. It may be a noble defense, but the sad truth is that without a huge pile of money, it's not a winning defense.
Anyway, to get back to the point. I think from this post you should have a better understanding of both what the charges are and what some of the issues are. If you want to contribute to a defense after this information, you should drop a line to either Steve or Alva. Please realize of course that if you ask them questions about the case they're not going to be able to answer them for reasons that should be obvious. I'm sure that any help — no matter how small — will be greatly appreciated. Finally, if you live in the Jacksonville area, and are friends with other studios in town, let me suggest that now might be a good time to forget old business disputes and act in solidarity.