'Pastafarianism' is not a religion

Woensdag 15 augustus 2018

'Pastafarianism', as embraced by the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, is not a religion. Therefore, the wearing of a colander by adherents of Pastafarianism cannot be regarded as an expression of religious belief. For this reason, the freedom of religion does not call for applying an individual exception to the general rule that the head should be uncovered in passport photos for travel documents for adherents of this Pastafarian movement. This was the ruling given by the Dutch Council of State’s Administrative Jurisdiction Division in its judgment today (15 August 2018).

The colander as holy symbol

A woman from Nijmegen had applied for an identity card and a driving licence and submitted passport photos in which she was wearing a colander on her head. She sees the colander as a holy symbol of Pastafarianism. The mayor of Nijmegen refused to issue the requested documents, because the woman's head was covered in her passport photos. For this reason, the photos did not meet the applicable legal criteria.

No reason to deviate from the general rule

In this case the Administrative Jurisdiction Division had to answer the question whether Pastafarianism is a religion or not. Contrary to the general requirements, it is possible to apply for an official document with a passport photo in which the head is (partially) covered, if the applicant has shown that religious reasons dictate against leaving the head uncovered. But in the view of the Administrative Jurisdiction Division, there are no grounds to apply this exception in this case.

Insufficient seriousness and cohesion; satirical character dominates

According to the judgment of Administrative Jurisdiction Division, the satirical element of Pastafarianism is so predominant that it does not meet the criteria of "cogency, seriousness, cohesion and significance" that the European Court of Human Rights applies when interpreting the freedom of religion enshrined in Article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights. In particular, Pastafarianism lacks the required seriousness and cohesion. For this reason, this movement cannot be considered as a religion.

Criticism

The Administrative Jurisdiction Division recognises the relevance and significance of the right to freely express (satirical) criticism of religious dogmas and institutions. Such criticism, even though it does relate to religion, cannot, in itself, be considered as a body of thought that is protected by the freedom of religion.

Background to Pastafarianism

Pastafarians proclaim that the world has been created by an invisible Flying Spaghetti Monster. According to their writings, this deity gave Mosey, the first pirate, ten stone tablets, two of which he accidentally destroyed. This is how Pastafarianism came to have eight central commandments (Condiments) or 'I'd Really Rather You Didn'ts', which can be found in texts such as 'The Old Pastament'. These writings and other texts and customs of Pastafarianism parody elements of Christianity and are rich in satirical wordplay. The founder of the movement, Bobby Henderson, introduced the Flying Spaghetti Monster in his protest against the plan to allow American schools to present 'intelligent design' as a comparable alternative to the theory of evolution. The founder felt that Pastafarianism should then also be taught.

Full text of the ruling

Read the full text of the ruling with case number 201707148/1 here.

In English

An English translation of key paragraphs of the ruling is available here.