Dutch Court Rules Pastafarianism Isn’t A Real Religion

Hemant Mehta objects to a Dutch court ruling on the status of Pastafarianism.  

Mienke de Wilde, a law student from the Netherlands, wanted to wear a colander on her head when she took her driver’s license photo. She wouldn’t be the first Pastafarian to do it. (Hell, in New Zealand, ministeronis can even perform weddings now.)

But the government said no. Even though religious people are allowed to wear the appropriate head coverings of their faith for ID pictures, the mayor of Nijmegen told de Wilde that Pastafarianism was not a real religion; it was just satirical.

She disagreed. She sued. And now a Dutch court has ruled against her.

The Administrative Jurisdiction Division of the Dutch Council of State said her faith wasn’t a serious one, so the religious exemption didn’t apply to her:

… The Administrative Jurisdiction division recognises the considerable significance of being able to freely express satirical criticism of religious dogmas, institutions and religions. Such criticism itself however, even if it also relates to religion, cannot yet be considered as a religion itself, which is covered by the fundamental rights as mentioned above… [Pastafarianism] cannot be considered as a religion or belief. In particular, there is a lack of the required seriousness and cohesion.

The judges gave an example of how not serious it is… in the greatest thing I’ve ever seen in a judicial ruling:

… the lack of cohesion is illustrated by the relationship set out in [creator Bobby] Henderson’s letter between the decline in the number of pirates since 1800 and global warming.

That would be funnier if the end result wasn’t so troubling.

Maybe you’d argue that parody religions aren’t religions, and this court is correct. Of course the Flying Spaghetti Monster is satire. But de Wilde says something very different:

De Wilde said the church was humorous but that did not mean it was not “very serious in what it stands for”. She was disappointed by the decision, which backed Nijmegen authorities’ rejection of her ID photos.

“I can imagine that it all looks very odd if you don’t believe,” she told the Algemeen Dagblad newspaper. “But that’s the case with many faiths if you don’t believe in them — people who walk on water or divide themselves in two, for example. I find other religions unbelievable.”

This is really key to the case. How come her religion is considered silly, while silly religions are considered serious? Just because we’re used to the more traditional religions doesn’t mean it’s the government’s role to say your beliefs should be taken more seriously than someone else’s beliefs. Just because a religion began as a joke doesn’t mean it can’t evolve into something more serious. If you sincerely believe a Higher Power is telling you to do something, it shouldn’t be a judge’s position to tell you otherwise.

But the Dutch court says they understand Pastafarianism better than de Wilde does, and they think it’s just a parody.

De Wilde says she may appeal the decision to the European Court of Human Rights.

By the way, de Wilde is also featured in a documentary about the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster called I, Pastafari. The movie actually followed her journey over the past two years culminating in yesterday’s decision. It’s not too late to chip in towards the completion of that film.

Hemant Mehta blogs @ Friendly Atheist 

Follow Hemant Mehta on Twitter @hemantmehta

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Anthony McIntyre

Former IRA prisoner, spent 18 years in Long Kesh. Free Speech advocate, writer, historian, humanist, and researcher.

8 comments to ''Dutch Court Rules Pastafarianism Isn’t A Real Religion"

  1. Enjoyed that one and I lend my support to Hemant Mehta even though my higher power tells me all religion is ridiculous. Well imagine believing in a belief.

  2. A Swedish court has found the goodwiĺ gesture of handshaking to be an act of discrimination against Muslims even though many Muslims of both genders also use the gesture.

  3. The Swedish case is a food for thought one Christy. I am not sure she did enough to make the case for discrimination.

  4. The problem with the Dutch Pastafarian is that maybe her god is not real!!

  5. When everything is shown to be a farce, be sure you have an organisation principle ready that’s better , and will withstand the onslaught of those with enmity towards the West that haven’t abandoned theirs.

  6. AM

    I find Pastafarianism more digestible.

    I think her case was nonsence but 3 judges agreed with her and 2 did not. She used the freedoms western society provides to object to western custom as gender discrimination and not thevarious oppresive and discriminatory practices within Islam shows she is no champion against gender discrimination. Multiculturalism is a tool Islamists can use to break down western values.

    Workplace equality laws and safeguards are intended to create a neutral environment by preventing people from bringing their politics or religion into the workplace. Handshaking is a neutral goodwill gesture, it is neither a political nor religious statement but this woman's views are.

  7. Christy,

    I get all that but I think the issue is complicated by the seemingly obligatory status of the handshake. But if it is company policy that all employees shake hands with clients then she should have had the case thrown out.

  8. I agree. As an interpreter your job description requires meeting different people and being accommodating within reason. The company's expectation for her to shake hands is not unreasonable. There were Muslims who after applying to work in shops that also sold alcohol said they would not sell alcohol to anyone... shops accommodated them by having a different employee to step in and check the alcohol through. That is all just nonsense


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