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Will the Courts Put a Stop to Our Shenanigans?

Published December 1st, 2019 by Bobby Henderson

A Vox article made the rounds a few months ago suggesting the US Supreme Court may eventually squash our efforts at what Vox described essentially as Trollish Activism — the thing we’ve done for 10+ years, where, when government opens the door a bit to religion, we walk in (dressed in Full Pirate Regalia) demanding equal treatment. [See: Man Gives Pastafarian Invocation to Assembly Meeting , Spaghetti Monster Statue Displayed at Tennessee Courthouse , Town Council Member Sworn in Wearing Colander, …] From Vox:

“The question, however, is whether the courts — including a Supreme Court that has sometimes been very unsympathetic to minority religions — will allow these tactics to continue. Eventually, it is likely that a state or local government that’s targeted by Pastafarians or Satanists will bring a case all the way to the justices. And the Court’s current majority could be sympathetic to such a government.”

Have the courts had enough of our antics, and will they try to stop us by declaring us a definitely-not-legitimate religion? I don’t know. But in light of recent news (below), I’d like to share a few thoughts on the Church of FSM’s ongoing struggle for Official recognition and how that sometimes clashes with authority.

The Austrian courts rejected us :(

We’ve just heard that the Austrian courts ruled Pastafarianism will not be included in their list of Official state religions. This has been in the courts for years and, to be clear, the fight is not over — Pastafarians will appeal this decision with the European Court of Human Rights. But it was a disappointing result for Pastafarians everywhere. From the Austrian Pastafarian’s press release (translated from it’s original German):

The Federal Administrative Court has unequivocally established the existence of a religion, but withdrew in its dismissive recognition to the view that there was no sufficiently ” organized community ” of the more than 300 accredited members. Also “The essentially daily consumption of pasta and the ‘transcending’ of beer – due to the lack of specific religious references – did not constitute a rite. ” 

Essentially the court said the Church of FSM is not legit because our community is too small, we meet online rather than in person, and when we do get together we’re drinking beer and eating Pasta. The Austrian Pastafarians in their press release point out the hypocrisy in that statment, considering Christians get together to ingest wine and wafers.

The fact that the consumption of dough flakes and alcoholic beverages in other religions is assessed as a rite without any problems, but that no “religious reference points” could be identified in the Pastafarian Transubstantiation, can be classified as authority arbitrariness in addition to several criticisms of the judgment of the Federal Administrative Court. 

It’s not legitimate communion unless you can buy it in bulk.

But I wonder … if we had more in-person meetups, and if our communion looked (more) like what is recognized as a rite by the Christians – would the Austrian courts have viewed us as a legitimate religious group? I doubt it — it always feels the reasoning comes after the decision to exclude us.

Does winning matter?

As long as we don’t get discouraged, I’m not sure the losses matter much in the long run. This is public news, and each time an authority decrees that we’re not part of the Legit Religion Club, because of Reasons, there are a whole bunch of people who see that and think, wait, that’s bullshit, and our membership grows.

It’s true we’re not all True-Believers here. But as a group, I feel we are uncommonly sensitive to hypocrisy and injustice, and when we get discriminated against for what feels like arbitrary and capricious reasons, a lot of otherwise-casual Pastafarians are compelled to care more about our “fake” religion. That is, the very act of discrimination pushes our organization towards what can only be seen as legitimacy, in the long run.

The truth is, the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, in it’s most recent form[1], would not have lasted long without the continued insistence by authorities that ours is not a legitimate religion, that other groups can believe supernatural nonsense and sometimes be allowed extra privileges by government and institutions, but not our group — because 1, our supernatural nonsense sounds too out-there and 2, that maybe we don’t believe in that out-there supernatural nonsense enough for them to consider ours a legitimate religion.

Now, ten-plus years on, we have members – and practicing ministers – all over the world. We’re getting more organized and in every way more of a substantive real-world organization.

Where do we go from here?

My hope is that as we grow and become more organized, we don’t lose what made our group special. My favorite thing is to see a Pastafarian in the news doing something obnoxious and clever. If I had no idea it was coming beforehand, so much the better. I hope we never lose that spirit.

So far we’ve been able to avoid a lot of the problems of mainstream religion, I’d guess a lot of that is because we don’t fundraise, and don’t collect dues. I would like for us to find a way to build more physical churches, and put on more real-world activies and especially outreach to our communities. And, it would be nice to one day get the Pirate Ship and float around converting heathens and so forth. Maybe we’ll find a rich benefactor or someone will include the church in their will. F the relatives, put it all towards a pirate ship.

I would love to hear thoughts on the future of the church and thoughts about official recognition.

Footnotes

  1. The Church of the Flying Spaghetti monster has existed for thousands of years in secrecy, only recently coming back into the mainstream.