Thursday, April 21, 2016

Pastafarianism: Accommodating Believers in the Flying Spaghetti Monster

Recently, in Cavanaugh v. Bartelt, Judge John Gerrard rejected the claims of Steven Cavanaugh, a prisoner in the Nebraska State Penitentiary, that he was subjected to religious discrimination when prison officials refused to accommodate his religious practices as a Pastafarian and believer in the divine Flying Spaghetti Monster.  Judge Gerrard concluded that FSMism is not a religion but a "parody, intended to advance an argument about science, the evolution of life, and the place of religion in public education."

In this terrific blog post, Michael Dorf distinguishes between the question of whether the founders of Pastifariansim intended it as a religion or as a parody of religion and the question of whether a particular individual is a sincere believer in Pastafarianism as a religion.  The latter question is the relevant one in determining whether a particular individual is entitled to have his beliefs accommodated.  As Judge Gerrard observes, however: 
It is not clear from Cavanaugh's complaint whether his professed adherence to FSMism is grounded in [its rejection of religion as science], or in a literal reading of the FSM Gospel. But to read the FSM Gospel literally would be to misrepresent it -- and, indeed, to do it a disservice in the process. That would present the FSM Gospel as precisely the sort of Fundamentalist dogma that it was meant to rebut.

This blog reflects the views solely of its author. It is not intended, and should not be regarded, as legal advice on how to analyze any particular set of facts.