The Elmira Star-Gazette takes a look local residents and their tattoos. After spending some time with brothers getting memorial tattoos and a cancer survivor (and her friend) getting inked, the article turns to a local Wiccan woman and her forehead tattoo. Unsurprisingly, this has caused her a variety of problems.
“Along with the attention, Camilla said her tattoo brought another thing: discrimination. She said that it’s difficult to get through the entire job interview process without her tattoo becoming a hindrance … She said that her teachers at her adult education program even insisted that she find makeup to completely cover her tattoo so she could prepare for the work force. Camilla recalls one time where she completed an interview fairly successfully, only to have the interviewer notice her tattoo as she was shaking his hand. He stared at her and then drew his hand back as if it had been burned, she said. Camilla said she has never judged people based on their physical appearance, so she finds the treatment she has received hard to understand. She added that the manner in which potential employers have reacted to her tattoo has been frustrating. ‘They just kind of look at me weird and then I hear later from word-of-mouth that that was the reason they didn’t hire me,’ she said.”
The crescent-moon forehead tattoo isn’t entirely uncommon among modern Pagans, and was apparently first inspired by the tattoos given to priestesses of the Goddess in the cult-classic book “The Mists of Avalon”. A work so pervasively popular in some Pagan circles that it has been acknowledged as a primary source of spiritual inspiration in The Paganism Reader. However, despite this popularity, and despite the ongoing growth of modern Pagan religions, it will no doubt be several years before visible religiously-motivated facial tattoos are accepted in the more conservative regions of our country.
But conservative or not, small unobtrusive tattoos that express a religious belief shouldn’t preclude someone from being hired for a job they are qualified for. If Ms. Nhamercedes can provide proof that a job passed her over due to her tattoo, she may very well have grounds for legal action.