The Church of Body Modification is a non-theistic religion with approximately 3,500 members in the United States. The church practices body modification in order to "strengthen the bond between mind, body, and soul" and to experience the divine.
The core belief of the Church of Body Modification is to create a strong spiritual bond between the mind, body and soul. To ensure a strong connection, the Church uses both ancient and modern body modification rituals to show its faith and allow its members to bring the three branches of life into harmony. The Church practices various types of body modification, such as piercings, tattoos, scarification, corsetry, hook pulling, Hair dying, reconstructive and cosmetic surgery, fasting, and firewalking. It states that anything that pushes the flesh to its limits can be included in their list of rituals. The end goal is to live spiritually complete lives. There is no deity involved. The Church itself helps educate individuals on the various body modification rites. In its Vision Statement, the Church says it hopes to one day be able to practice their rituals without restriction in a world that doesn’t have prejudice against them.
Members of other religions are welcomed into the Church of Body Modification. Since there is no physical location for the Church, home rituals are usually prevalent. There are monthly online classes for members. It does not gain new members from promotion, but solely through attraction to its ideals.
We will always respect our bodies.
We believe it is our right to explore our world, both physical and supernatural, through spiritual body modification.
We promise to always grow as individuals through body modification and what it can teach us about who we are and what we can do.
We vow to share our experiences openly and honestly in order to promote growth in mind, body, and soul.
We honor all forms of body modification and those who choose to practice in safe and consensual ways.
We also promise to respect those who do not choose body modification.
We support all that join us in our mission and help those seeking us in need of spiritual guidance.
We strive to share a positive message with everyone we encounter, in order to act as positive role models for future generations in the body modification community. We always uphold basic codes of ethics and encourage others to do the same.
There are various levels of membership in the Church of Body Modification.
The Church of Body Modification is run by a Board of Advisors. The Board acts as an unbiased perspective within the community. The criteria for becoming a Board member includes expertise in the subject of body modification and a positive standing in the community. At the moment, there are four advisors: Cere Coichetti, Russ Foxx, Rick Frueh, and Jared Karnes.
Below those Board Members are Ministers, who function as spiritual guides. Since many of the practices of the church are risky, they are there to make sure people stay safe. According to the Code of Ethics, “Spiritual guides are to practice and serve in ways that cultivate awareness, empathy, and wisdom.” To become a minister, there is an application.
To become a member of the Church of Body Modification, there is an application screened by ministers. Not everyone can become a member. You must have a significant spiritual relation to body modification to be considered.
In 2001, a member of the Church of Body Modification was fired from a Costco because of an eyebrow ring. The employee sued Costco claiming that wearing the eyebrow ring was a religious practice and thus protected under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The court ruled in favor of Costco, holding that Costco had reasonably accommodated her when they offered to reinstate her if she covered or removed the piercing. On appeal, the 1st Circuit affirmed the ruling, adding that Costco had no duty to accommodate the employee as exempting her from the dress code would result in an undue hardship for Costco.
A 14-year-old member of the Church was suspended from Clayton High School in North Carolina, United States because a nose stud was against the dress code. Her school principal said that she could find any reason as to why the religion required her to wear the nose ring. The ACLU took the matter to federal court on free speech grounds, and a federal judge ruled in her favor October 8, 2010.
For the military personnel in the United States, attaching, affixing or displaying objects, articles, jewelry, or ornamentation to, through, or under their skin, tongue, or any other body part is prohibited (where the term “skin” is not only confined to external skin, but includes the tongue, lips, inside the mouth, and other surfaces of the body not readily visible). This applies to all soldiers on or off duty. The only exception is for female soldiers, who may wear earrings (consistent with paragraph 3–4d) with the service, dress, and mess uniforms. Male soldiers are not authorized to wear earrings.