Bowing to the Meatball – Update for April 15, 2016


Steven Cavanaugh, a Nebraska state inmate, sued under the 1st Amendment and the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act because officials wouldn’t let him wear pirate duds, worship the Flying Spaghetti Monster (FSM), or take part in other Pastafarian pleasures. He said that the prison was violating his constitutional right to practice his religion.

FMS160509Last month, U.S. District Judge John Gerrard (already in the news for his opposition to mandatory minimum sentences) denied Cavanaugh’s motion: “What drives the FSM’s devout followers, aka Pastafarians?” the Judge’s opinion asked. “Some say it’s the assuring touch from the FSM’s Noodly Appendage. There are those who love the worship service, which is conducted in Pirate-Speak and attended by congregants in dashing buccaneer garb. Still others are drawn to the Church’s flimsy moral standards, religious holidays every Friday, and the fact that Pastafarian Heaven is way cooler. Does your Heaven have a Stripper Factory and a Beer Volcano? Intelligent Design has finally met its match—and it has nothing to do with apes or the Olive Garden of Eden.”

But after examining the elements constituting religious beliefs, the Judge decided that Pastafarianism is not a religion, only a parody made to look like one. “This is not a question of theology,” the Court wrote. “It is a matter of basic reading comprehension… it is evident to the Court that FSMism is not a belief system addressing ‘deep and imponderable’ matters: it is… a satirical rejoinder to a certain strain of religious argument… Nor, however, does FSMism advocate for humanism or atheism… Those belief systems, although not theistic, still deal with issues of ‘ultimate concern’ and take a position ‘on religion, the existence and importance of a supreme being, and a code of ethics.’ FSMism takes no such position: the only position it takes is that others’ religious beliefs should not be presented as ‘science.’ Despite touching upon religion, that is a secular argument.”

Cavanaugh v. Bartelt, Case No. 4:14-CV-3183                                          (D.Neb. Apr. 12, 2016)LISAStatHeader2small

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