August 17, 2018
The Netherlands Council of State has ruled that Pastafarianism is not a religion—denying a follower of the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster (yes, it’s a real thing) the right to wear a colander on her head in her passport and driver’s license photos. Plaintiff Mienke de Wilde is now considering taking her case to the European Court of Human Rights, according to an August 16 report by The Guardian.
The church was founded in the United States in 2005 by Bobby Henderson in response to a campaign by Christian fundamentalists, advocating the teaching of creationism in schools. In an open letter, Henderson demanded equal time in science classrooms for Flying Spaghetti Monsterism, a faith that preaches that the world was created in one day by the Flying Spaghetti Monster—which created a mountain; then, a tree; and finally, a midget. According to a description on Wikipedia, the dogmas of Pastafarianism are centered on references to noodles and pirates, and on parodies of creationist theories.
Among other things, followers wear colanders on their heads in homage to their deity, revere pirates as the original Pastafarians, and vow to reject “crazy nonsense,” be nice to all sentient beings, and eat a lot of pasta. They say that global warming is the result of the decline of the pirate population.
The Netherlands’ highest court ruled that de Wilde, a law student from Nijmegen, could not be exempted on religious grounds from a ban on headwear in official identity photographs, because Pastfarianism was essentially a satire and not a serious faith.
Officially recognised by the New Zealand government, which approved a follower to conduct marriages in 2015, the church’s status is disputed in many other countries—although several have allowed followers to wear colanders or pirate outfits for ID photographs.
Among its tenets, laid down by Henderson in a 2006 parody of organized religion called The Gospel of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, are eight “I’d Really Rather You Didn’ts.” (According to church gospel, two of the original 10 pseudo-commandments “got lost”). If followed, the Didn’ts allow Pastafarians—who conclude their prayers with “Ramen” rather than “Amen”—to ascend to heaven, where they will find a stripper factory and a beer volcano.
De Wilde said the church was humorous but that did not mean it was not “very serious in what it stands for.” She was disappointed by the decision, which backed Nijmegen authorities’ rejection of her ID photos.
“I can imagine that it all looks very odd if you don’t believe,” she told the Algemeen Dagblad newspaper. “But that’s the case with many faiths if you don’t believe in them—people who walk on water or divide themselves in two, for example. I find other religions unbelievable.”
The Dutch council of state was not impressed, however, according to The Guardian’s report. “It may be the case that the colander is considered a holy object for Pastafarians, worn in honor of the Flying Spaghetti Monster but there is no obligation to do so,” it said in its ruling.
“In fact, Pastafarianism has no obligations or restrictions. De Wilde has said she wears her colander because she sees it as duty but it is an individual choice.”
Dutch law permits the head to be partially covered for identity photos, but only for genuine religious reasons.
“It is important to be able to criticize religious dogma freely through satire but that does not make such criticism a serious religion,” the council said, adding that Pastafarianism lacked the “seriousness and coherence” required of a religion.
According to Yahoo, there are about 6 billion Pastafarians worldwide, although it is unclear how the site came up with that estimate.
Research contact: @jonhenley