Religious Liberty Alert!

Noodly reports that a New Jersey man was denied the right to wear a religious head covering for his driver's license photo. Specifically, he wanted to wear the Holy Colander.What? "As a Pastafarian, I believe the universe was created by a Flying Spaghetti Monster," Williams said. "The strainer is a showing of my devoutness to the religion."As the photo above makes clear, Pastafarianism is something of a spoof of religion. (Myself, while I am not a Pastafarian, I love the quirky silliness of that tradition. You can learn more about the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster here, if you want to.)Yup, goofy. But as with all inspired parody, there's a serious point underneath.

The church itself was formed in 2005 in response to the Kansas State Board of Education's decision to permit the teaching of intelligent design in Kansas Schools. Bobby Henderson wrote a letter to the Board in the name of the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, arguing that there are many versions of intelligent design, and that his is equally deserving of consideration in Kansas Schools. He wrote:

I think we can all look forward to the time when these three theories are given equal time in our science classrooms across the country, and eventually the world; one third time for Intelligent Design, one third time for Flying Spaghetti Monsterism, and one third time for logical conjecture based on overwhelming observable evidence.

Since then, combating attempts to sneak creationism into science classrooms has been a special part of the charism of Pastafarians. As Henderson said: "I don't have a problem with religion. What I have a problem with is religion posing as science."But Williams raises another serious question in a truly Pastafarian way. Speaking to Davy James of the South Brunswick Patch, he explains:

"What we deem as different or embarrassing is different from what another individual deems as different or embarrassing, in terms of religious practices,....Had it been a turban or a head scarf, or something from a mainstream religion, then it would've been fine. I guess since they hadn't heard of the religion, that's why they opposed it. But that's not really acceptable to me. They're not in a position to discriminate against religions that are mainstream, or not mainstream, just because they may not have heard about it."

So, religious liberty--if it applies to one, it applies to all. In fact, in 2011, an Austrian Pastafarian successfully sued for the right to wear a colander for his driver license photo.Fortunately, the Church of the Flying Spaghetti monster does not have teachings regarding contraception or mandated coverage for such. For what it's worth, they do believe that pirates were the original Pastafarians, and that "global warming, earthquakes, hurricanes, and other natural disasters are a direct effect of the shrinking numbers of Pirates since the 1800s."

Lisa Fullam is professor of moral theology at the Jesuit School of Theology at Berkeley. She is the author of The Virtue of Humility: A Thomistic Apologetic (Edwin Mellen Press).

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