Enjoying legal protection to dress in Pirate Regalia at work
Let me share this article written by Daniel Dowdy for the Rutgers Journal of Law and Religion about employment protections for Pastafarians in the workplace. For all of us who want to take off every Friday from work without fear of reprisal (religious discrimination) this is important. Mr Dowdy goes into detail about the history of the Church and what if any allowances can reasonably be asked of employers, citing decades of law. It’s an incredible piece of work and written in an approachable and entertaining way. I was blown away.
I’ll paste some excerpts of the article below, but please take the time to read the article if you have any interest in this stuff – you won’t be disappointed.
Here’s the link to the Rutgers Journal article.
And here’s some excerpts:
Your newly hired employee, Toni, has just walked into your office on her first day at Meerkat Manufacturing, the private corporation where you serve as a mid-level manager. She is donning a weathered vest with eighteen buttons, a flowing woolen coat over the top that has oversized cuffs (though it’s mid-July), striped pants that bag and tuck into high black socks just above her knees. On her head is a large metal colander, the same kind you have under your sink at home. She’s come to request Fridays off. Every Friday. Toni says that as a “Pastafarian” she is entitled to have every Friday off as a religious holiday.
Title VII of the Civil Rights act of 1964 makes it unlawful for an employer to discriminate against an employee or prospective employee on the basis of religion, among other protected classes.
This definition has been considered overly broad by its critics.5 To this day, Title VII religious protection law is a veritable wild west. It follows that nontraditional religions would, in a great number of cases,6 be included under this protected class. The question presented to Joe, our fictitious HR Director, and the same question to be answered in this note is: does Pastafarianism (i.e. subscription to the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster), which has been repeatedly criticized as nothing more than parody and satire,7 elicit protection under Title VII? If so, how much accommodation is required? If not, why not?
Henderson goes on to explain that “[s]ome Pastafarians honestly believe in the FSM, and some see it as satire.” Continuing:
Compare our religion to those that are built on lies. I am not talking necessarily about mainstream religions (which themselves are often full of mysticism and ad-hoc reasoning), but think of cults, or churches where the leaders are scamming their followers out of money. These are groups where the followers fully believe. Are these churches legitimate since they have many True Believers?
Henderson also clarifies that Pastafarianism is “not a joke. Elements of our religion are sometimes described as satire and there are many members who do not literally believe our scripture, but this isn’t unusual in religion. A lot of Christians don’t believe the Bible is literally true – but that doesn’t mean they aren’t True Christians.” The Gospel further bolsters CFSM’s religious assertions with a “Disclaimer” at the beginning of the text which reads:
While Pastafarianism is the only religion based on empirical evidence, it should also be noted that this is a faith-based book. Attentive readers will note numerous holes and contradictions throughout the text; they will even find blatant lies and exaggerations. These have been placed there to test the reader’s faith.
It is clear that Pastafarianism is not a traditional belief, given its only recent popularity and its foreign seeming practices. If Bobby Henderson is to be believed, that the CFSM is “not an atheists club,” then an analysis of the protected class membership of its followers as nontheists will be unnecessary. For the purposes of this note, as well as the required precarious judicial distinction between the truth of a belief and the truth of the sincerity of that belief, we must assume that Pastafarians generally do not fall under protected class status on the basis of nontheism, but rather, under a theory of non-traditional theism. There does not seem to be a great distinction between worship of the sun god, Ra, and that of the FSM.151 On the basis of non-traditional religious belief, therefore, there seems to be no barrier to Title VII protection.
The beliefs and practices avowed by The Gospel are not built on a foundation of mere political or secular beliefs. While certainly Pastafarian practices are likely to seem unacceptable, illogical, inconsistent, or incomprehensible to some, if not a large majority of reasonable people, this will not disqualify the CFSM’s followers from protection under Title VII.
Talking to Mr. Dowdy a bit, I don’t know his exact opinion on whether Pastafarians should be granted allowances to dress as Pirates and take every Friday off of work… I believe the larger point of his article is that courts should not be deciding what is and what is not a True religion and it’s not their place to maintain a list of protected religious activities that are deemed acceptable in the workplace. Perhaps we can convince him that Pastafarianism is the One True religion and deserves extra allowances.
Again here is the link to the full Rutgers Journal article, please read it if you’ve got some time.
Thank you to Mr. Dowdy. I predict a bright future for him (he just graduated from Rutgers with a Law degree) – and I hope that he will keep in touch with the Church and let us know what’s on his mind. Maybe we can brainstorm some questions to ask him from time to time.