FSM devotee sues prison authorities
Stephen Cavanagh, 23, (inset) wants $5-million in damages from the Department of Correctional Services and Nebraska State Penitentiary officials because of their refusal to recognise his Pastafarianism.
According to this report, while the Nebraska prison system accommodates an eclectic array belief systems – 20 in all, including Satanism – it regards Pastafarianism as “a satirical movement”, not a pukka religion.
Cavanagh, serving four to eight years for attempted first-degree assault and weapons convictions for chasing a married couple with a hatchet in 2012, says this is “insulting”. He alleges discrimination and he is seeking $5 million in damages for pain and suffering, plus punitive damages.
His lawsuit states that staff violated his civil rights by denying him the chance to worship the Flying Spaghetti Monster by not allowing him the right to meet for worship services and classes, or to wear religious paraphenalia and pendants.
The only reason (my) requests were denied is that (my) religion does not conform to the ‘traditional’ Abrahamic belief structure. This has caused (me) no end of stress and spiritual pain.
Cavanaugh claims he isn’t the only Pastafarian at the prison.
Devotees believe the Flying Spaghetti Monster created the world and pirates were its initial followers, according to the church’s website. They are known to wear colanders on their heads.
A prison official wrote in denying one of Cavanaugh’s requests:
The founder of Pastafarianism stated that it was a parody of religion. The Nebraska Department of Correctional Services will not dedicate administrative and facility resources to support a parody.
Department spokesman James Foster declined comment, citing the pending litigation.
Inmates seeking accommodations for their faith must submit a written request to the prison’s religious coordinator, who reviews information about the religion and sends the request to the religious study committee.
That committee, comprised of other religious coordinators, department staff and an attorney, make a recommendation to the department’s deputy directors for institutions and programmes and community services, who have the final say. The inmate can appeal the decision.
The Flying Spaghetti Monster faith first caught headlines when Oregon State University graduate Bobby Henderson wrote an open letter in 2005 protesting the Kansas Board of Education’s decision to allow intelligent design to be taught in public schools as an alternative to evolution.
He demanded equal time for his faith, asking that Flying Spaghetti Monsterism be taught in school as well.
Just last week, an Oklahoma woman was allowed to wear a colander on her head in her driver’s license picture, claiming it was religious headgear for her faith.
And last year, Texas Tech student Eddie Castillo, above, became the first American to successfully have his government-issued ID taken while wearing a colander on his head.
Cavanaugh, who is from Grand Island, said he had openly declared his belief in the Flying Spaghetti Monster before he went to prison and that he has “prominent tattoos proclaiming his faith”.
He isn’t asking the state to pay for his regalia, he wrote in the lawsuit, only that he be able to buy it himself.
The rapid rise of Pastafarianism, which now has thousands of followers, prompted Peter Galling, writing for Answers in Genesis in 2008, to examine the phenomenon. He concluded:
We are not worried that Flying Spaghetti Monsterism is going to lure away Christians; rather, the religion’s obvious primary purpose is sardonic humor.
Nevertheless, it reflects a growing attitude of mockery toward not just organized religion, but also toward any suggestion that there is something – or Someone –’out there’. beyond ourselves and our fallen notions.