(RNS) — The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has filed two federal lawsuits in the Carolinas, alleging religious discrimination over a teenager’s nose ring and prisoners’ lack of books other than the Bible.
In South Carolina, the Berkeley County Detention Center in Moncks Corner barred a prison law journal and all other magazines, newspapers and books from being sent to prisoners with one exception, the Bible, the ACLU said.
The ACLU filed suit on behalf of the monthly journal Prison Legal News, claiming the policy violates the inmates’ constitutional rights of free speech and free exercise of religion.
In addition to not being able to receive outside publications, the inmates do not have access to a library, The Associated Press (AP) reported.
“There is no legitimate justification for denying detainees access to periodicals, and, in the process, shutting them off from the outside world in draconian ways,” said David Shapiro, attorney with the ACLU National Prison Project.
Meanwhile, a 14-year-old student at Clayton (N.C.) High School has been suspended for wearing a nose ring since classes began in August.
Ariana Iacono and her mother, Nikki, belong to the Church of Body Modification and believe that tattoos and piercings connect them to the divine, according to the AP.
The ACLU filed a lawsuit claiming the school violated Ariana’s constitutional rights to religious expression, and is seeking a court order to allow her to immediately return to classes, the AP reported.
The dress code for Johnson County school system does not allow jewelry on a student’s nose, tongue, lips, cheek or eyebrow. Exemptions can be made to the policy if it imposes “a substantial burden on the exercise of a sincerely held religious belief.”
School officials only grant exemptions after written explanations from valid religious groups, and school officials have dismissed explanations of the Iaconos’ faith even after the family’s minister appealed to school officials.
“We followed all the rules, so I don’t understand why the school is being so unreasonable,” Nikki Iacono told the AP.
— Whitney Jones
© 2010 Religion News Service. Used with permission.
Posted Oct. 8, 2010