The firing of Christopher Piggott, a veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps and former Parkersburg firefighter, has caused a free speech and due process controversy in West Virginia. Piggot was fired because he would not have a Marine Corps tattoo removed from his forearm.
Piggott, 29, was fired on April 15 by the Wood County Sheriff’s Office due to the tattoo on his right forearm depicting two praying hands cupping a Marine Corps ID tag. Above the hands are the words “Unless you were there.” He spent five years in the Corps, including two tours in Iraq.
The Sheriff’s Office has a policy that mandates “[t]attoos are not to be visible while wearing the summer uniform.” Piggotts use of long sleeves or a black band over the tattoo was not sufficient.
He seems to have a strong due process claims in his denial of a hearing on the matter. The first amendment issue is more difficult. Various businesses have such a rule against tattoos, including the Marines who now ban large tattoos beneath the elbow or knee.
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