Flying Spaghetti Monsterite Loses His Case

     LINCOLN, Neb. (CN) — A federal judge didn’t buy an argument from a “Pastafarian” inmate in Nebraska who says prison officials violated his rights as a follower of the Flying Spaghetti Monster.
     U.S. District Judge John Gerrard on Tuesday ruled that Stephen Cavanaugh raised “important issues” and that Flying Spaghetti Monsterism “contains a serious argument,” but that the argument or arguments are not necessarily “entitled to protection as a ‘religion.'”
     The Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster was created in 2005 to satirize the Kansas State Board of Education’s decision to allow public schools to teach “intelligent design” as an alternative to evolution.
     Bobby Henderson, a graduate student in physics at Oregon State, sent an open letter to the Kansas Board of Education, saying his belief that a Flying Spaghetti Monster created the universe was as valid as their belief in intelligent design.
     The Flying Spaghetti Monster became an Internet sensation. The next year, Henderson published the book, “The Gospel of the Flying Spaghetti Monster,” a parody of Christian Fundamentalist beliefs. In 2014, the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster filed a request to erect a monument to its deity outside Oklahoma’s Capitol amid well-publicized controversy over a Ten Commandments monument outside that state building.
     Among Cavanaugh’s claims were that the prison refused to let him dress like a pirate. The Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster teaches that pirates were the first members of their religion.
     In his 16-page order of dismissal, Gerrard said that Cavanaugh had not sufficiently argued that “FSMism” is a religion, nor how the prison officials violated his rights.
     “The Court finds that FSMism is not a ‘religion’ within the meaning of the relevant federal statutes and constitutional jurisprudence,” Gerrard wrote. “It is, rather, a parody, intended to advance an argument about science, the evolution of life, and the place of religion in public education. Those are important issues, and FSMism contains a serious argument — but that does not mean that the trappings of the satire used to make that argument are entitled to protection as a ‘religion.'”
     Cavanaugh claimed that officials ignored his requests to observe his religion, which include the right to wear religious clothing, to meet for weekly worship services, and to receive communion. According to his complaint, filed in 2014, he has openly declared his beliefs for many years and “has several tattoos proclaiming his faith.”
     Prison officials denied his requests because they found FSMism to be a parody religion — an assertion that Cavanaugh found offensive.
     He sued for an injunction and money damages, claiming that his First Amendment and equal protection rights were being violated.
     But Gerrard found that Cavanaugh failed to state how his exercise of Pastafarianism has been significantly burdened by the alleged discrimination.
     While prison officials barred Cavanaugh from dressing like a pirate, sailing a “seaworthy vessel” every Friday as religious observance, and consuming a large portion of spaghetti and meatballs as communion, their actions do not amount to civil rights violations.
     “Even if denying those accommodations would make it more difficult for Cavanaugh to practice FSMism, it would not make him effectively unable to do so,” Gerrard wrote.
     He dismissed the complaint and Cavanaugh’s motion for a hearing.
     The case is Stephen Cavanaugh vs. Randy Bartelt, et al.

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