NEWS: While the Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles (RMV) does not typically permit motorists to wear head coverings or hats while posing for driver’s license photos, the state does allow exceptions to that rule for religious reasons. One such exception was made in November 2015 for Lindsey Miller, a Boston woman who identifies as a “Pastafarian,” a member of the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster:
A Massachusetts agency is letting a woman who belongs to the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster wear a colander on her head in her driver’s license photo after she cited her religious beliefs.
Miller says wearing the spaghetti strainer allows her to express her beliefs, like other religions are allowed to do.
The Boston Globe reported that Miller first attempted to get her license photo taken while wearing a spaghetti strainer in August 2015, but she was denied in her efforts at that time by the Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles. Miller filed an appeal with the help of Patty DeJuneas, a lawyer from the Secular Legal Society, and on 10 November 2015, the RMV relented to Miller’s request:
Miller had spent two months without a license when the RMV suddenly canceled her appeal hearing in October. A second hearing was slated, but officials from the Registry instead contacted DeJuneas and agreed to allow Miller to wear the colander in her license photo.
“The RMV processed the customer’s request consistent with its established facial image policy,” Michael Verseckes, a spokesman for the Massachusetts Department of Transportation, said in an e-mailed statement.
When asked why the RMV shifted directions, Verseckes said, “We do not get into the sincerity or the veracity of religious beliefs.”
Verseckes said he didn’t know if Miller was the first person in the state to wear a colander in a license photo.
“The RMV does not track instances in which we accommodate religious beliefs asserted when license images are captured,” he said.
The RMV is not the first to question the beliefs of Pastafarians. In fact, Miller herself admitted that the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster is largely a parody of religion and not a religion in itself:
The group, which subscribes to the idea that an invisible creature made from cooked noodles could be responsible for gravity, sells itself as all-inclusive, which attracted Miller in the first place.
“It’s a religion that uses parody. We accept all dogma, but we reject all dogma at the same time,” Miller said. “That’s what is so great about Pastafarianism. It accepts everyone.”
While some people may question the sincerity of Miller’s beliefs, DeJuneas countered that the First Amendment protects every religion and religious adherent:
“The First Amendment applies to every person and every religion, so I was dismayed to hear that Lindsay had been ridiculed for simply seeking the same freedoms and protections afforded to people who belong to more traditional or theistic religions. We appreciate that the RMV recognized the error, apologized, and issued a license respecting her First Amendment rights, and hope that RMV staff will be trained to respect diversity.”
“If people are given the right to wear religious garments in government ID photos, then this must extend to people who follow the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster,” said David Niose, legal director of the Appignani Humanist Legal Center.
According to the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster’s web site, Pastafarianism has been around for hundreds of years, but the religion only went mainstream in 2005 when Bobby Henderson referenced it on an open letter to the Kansas School Board regarding a controversy over the state’s teaching of Intelligent Design in public schools:
I am writing you with much concern after having read of your hearing to decide whether the alternative theory of Intelligent Design should be taught along with the theory of Evolution. I think we can all agree that it is important for students to hear multiple viewpoints so they can choose for themselves the theory that makes the most sense to them. I am concerned, however, that students will only hear one theory of Intelligent Design.
Let us remember that there are multiple theories of Intelligent Design. I and many others around the world are of the strong belief that the universe was created by a Flying Spaghetti Monster. It was He who created all that we see and all that we feel. We feel strongly that the overwhelming scientific evidence pointing towards evolutionary processes is nothing but a coincidence, put in place by Him.
It is for this reason that I’m writing you today, to formally request that this alternative theory be taught in your schools, along with the other two theories. In fact, I will go so far as to say, if you do not agree to do this, we will be forced to proceed with legal action. I’m sure you see where we are coming from. If the Intelligent Design theory is not based on faith, but instead another scientific theory, as is claimed, then you must also allow our theory to be taught, as it is also based on science, not on faith.
Some find that hard to believe, so it may be helpful to tell you a little more about our beliefs. We have evidence that a Flying Spaghetti Monster created the universe. None of us, of course, were around to see it, but we have written accounts of it. We have several lengthy volumes explaining all details of His power. Also, you may be surprised to hear that there are over 10 million of us, and growing. We tend to be very secretive, as many people claim our beliefs are not substantiated by observable evidence.
I’m sure you now realize how important it is that your students are taught this alternate theory. It is absolutely imperative that they realize that observable evidence is at the discretion of a Flying Spaghetti Monster. Furthermore, it is disrespectful to teach our beliefs without wearing His chosen outfit, which of course is full pirate regalia. I cannot stress the importance of this enough, and unfortunately cannot describe in detail why this must be done as I fear this letter is already becoming too long. The concise explanation is that He becomes angry if we don’t.