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Austrian Man Wins Right to Wear Pasta Strainer in License Photo

Austrian Man Wins Right to Wear Pasta Strainer in License Photo


Last week, an Austrian man named Niko Alm won what he says is a fundamental victory for religious freedom: he was permitted to wear a pasta strainer on his head in his driver’s license photo.  Alm, a self-identified “Pastafarian,” said that his religion requires him to wear the strainer, and petitioned for the right after reading that head coverings were only allowed in driver’s license photos for “confessional purposes.”

Now, three years and one mental health screening later, Alm has his driver’s license photo.  His next step is to petition the Austrian government to recognize “Pastafarianism,” or the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, as an official religion.  Alm’s crusade is best understood in the context of the creationism debate of the mid-2000′s, when the Kansas State Board of Education voted to teach Intelligent Design alongside evolution in science classes.  ”Pastafarian” Bobby Henderson petitioned for the state to include his “religion’s” perspective.  He wrote in an open letter:

“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.”

The Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster (FSM) became an online sensation, at least for a few years — which is presumably when Alm, an atheist, “converted” to the religion and began to petition for the pasta strainer.  Unlike Henderson, who seemed content to mock the establishment’s missteps, Alm is more aggressive.  According to Joseph Laycock of Religion Dispatches, on his blog, Alm “describes his resentment that government policies make exceptions to accommodate religious liberties.”  His petitions on behalf of “Pastafarianism” are part of a larger mission to make these exceptions “untenable or unreasonable.”

Laycock suggests that the success of “Pastafarianism” may signal that although its origins were humorous, it is actually a candidate for status as a religion because it forms a “moral community.”  While Alm’s struggle may seem ridiculous, it raises useful questions about how religion functions in public discourse and in relation to public life.  With Rick Perry loudly endorsing his prayer rally, Herman Cain’s claim that American communities should be able to ban mosques, and, most recently, Fox news hosts declaring that Mitt Romney is “not a Christian,” it’s plain that religion is playing an increasingly distorted role in our public discourse.  If faith becomes merely a tool for political gain or fear-mongering, maybe it’s easier to understand why some atheists are inventing religions to fight back.

Related Stories:

Romney “Obviously Not a Christian,” Says Fox News

Herman Cain: Americans Should Have the Right to Ban Mosques

Atheist Group Sues Rick Perry for Participating in Prayer Rally

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Photo from ItchStudios via Wikimedia Commons.

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4:14AM PDT on Oct 7, 2011

Good grief, Jane, is it a slow day at the Cougar bar today? This is a very old discussion, not exactly worthy of even a comment. I'm sorry I read yours.

9:27AM PDT on Oct 6, 2011

Finally!! Truth in advertising!! He's right, "If faith becomes merely a tool for POLITICAL GAIN or FEAR MONGERING, I think the rest of us should have the right to BELLY UP TO THE TROUGH! We can belong to our own social group, strive for political power, and pass the plate. It's ABOUT TIME! The Rick Perry religion, BIGOTTED, BRING BACK COAT HANGER ABORTIONS, THE SOUTH WILL RISE AGAIN, GAY BASHING, PRAY FOR RAIN, SHOOT PIGS FROM A HELICOPTER WITH A SEMIAUTOMATIC, SHOOT A COYOTE IN THE FACE, POLITICAL CONTRIBUTIONS FROM MULTINATIONAL CORPORATIONS, CHRISTIAN FUNDAMENTALIST EXTREMIST YEEEHAAW RETARDS, has disrespected the rest of us. We don't have to take it anymore. I really like the two balls with eyes on top. THEY ROCK!!

3:03PM PDT on Jul 23, 2011

I'm concerned on a number of levels

11:25AM PDT on Jul 23, 2011

mmmmm very interesting, as long as he is happy, right?

6:14AM PDT on Jul 22, 2011

Ya gotta LOVE IT!!!!! Good for him!!!! Great take-off on graphics as well!!!! I bet Mikey, designer of the original Adam, would really enjoy too, including the religion part!!!!

5:23AM PDT on Jul 22, 2011

LOL Good on him!! Might as well join the rest of the Odd Balls ~ or is that Meat Balls? ;-D

1:31AM PDT on Jul 22, 2011

Applause, applause...this guy is an inspiration to us seems that above all else, Pastafarianism values a sense of humor.

9:08AM PDT on Jul 21, 2011

Hilarious thanks for the article

8:52AM PDT on Jul 21, 2011

Great article with a good message...Thanks for the laughter!!

8:51AM PDT on Jul 21, 2011

Absolutely BRILLIANT!!!

Good for him!!!!

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