FSM devotee sues prison authorities

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.

16 responses to “FSM devotee sues prison authorities”

  1. Broga says:

    This is encouraging and was inevitable. It is encouraging because it sets up the beliefs of followers of the FSM beside other beliefs e.g. Christianity and demonstrates their absurdity. You could make a case for followers of the FSM to be offering more credible beliefs than Roman Catholicism.

    Their insistence, to offer one example, that a silent internal prayer to some dead, and often infamous dead RC, is understood and answered and the laws that govern life are subverted is as weird as it gets.

  2. Paul Cook says:

    I have an orange plastic colander -if I become a devotee can I use this? or will I get into trouble by not following the correct attire? is a metal colander easer for FSM practices? . Is there a FSM holy book with specific colander guidance ? It is very worrying as the one and only omnipotent FSM might not let me into heaven if I wear the wrong colander.

  3. Lon says:

    While satire and sardonic humor are representative of dearly held Pastafarian values, rest assured that Flying Spaghetti Monsterism is the one and only dogma free religion. As Pastafarians we are not even required to believe in the existence of The Flying Spaghetti Monster Himself, sauce be upon Him. Paul, colanders of any color or material are perfectly acceptable. My own favorite ceremonial headgear is made white plastic. When worn with confidence and the appropriate Pastafarian piratitude, you can be sure that you are one of us and already a resident of Pastafarian Paradise. Multitudes of Christians are leaving Jesusland to join the one, true and historic Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster. Arrhhhh!

  4. Trevor Blake says:

    As always, prisons are predominantly filled with the faithful and hospitals / universities / boardrooms / labratories / places where people make society happen are stocked with the secular.

    Anything that mocks religion, including religion, is of value in my book.

  5. L.Long says:

    He may not succeed but all the best to him. ALL religions were considered at one time to be heretical, atheism, and a parody by others. I think they all should be given NO RESPECT.

  6. Robster says:

    The FSM stuff and the regular religious nonsense really have much in common, therefore the Pasatafarian in jail should have his “faith” officially recognised. How different is it to believe a Spaghetti Monster created the universe than believing a genocidal spook of some kind in another dimension whipped it up in under a week before needed a days rest. Religious belief, the whole friggin’ lot, should otherwise be recognised as nothing more than playing “Let’s Pretend”. At least the FSM devotees can have some fun with it, the others take it all so seriously and actually pretend it’s real! Imagine that.

  7. Paul Cook says:


    You make good points.

  8. Newspaniard says:

    I had a Spag Bol ceremony only the other night. It satisfied all my spiritual needs.

  9. Angela_K says:

    No, the FSM is an heretic. We should be worshipping Russell’s teapot although wearing a teapot on one’s head is a bit tricky so perhaps a tea-cosy, like those old fashioned knitted ones our Grandparents had.

  10. barriejohn says:

    Trevor Blake:

    As always, prisons are predominantly filled with the faithful…

    You forgot mental hospitals. It’s true.

  11. Graham Martin-Royle says:

    @Angela_K: No, No, No, you’ve got it wrong, it’s not the teapot we should be worshiping it’s the “Walking Tagliatelle Fiend” (WTF for short) that demands worship! That or the PFG.

    Seriously, these people can see a difference between the FSM and other made up religions (christianity, islam, hinduism, mormon, etc)? Whatever arguments can be put forward for other religions can be put forward for pastafarianism and whatever arguments can be put against pastafarianism can be put against any other religion. Government should not be having any say in what is/is not a religion. That is against the 1st amendment (I know that and I’m not even a septic!).

  12. Broga says:

    The colander headgear has a simple, classical elegance that is admirable. So different from the jewelled extravagances of religious headgear that invite ridicule.

  13. jay says:

    This is funny and makes a point. But let’s be honest, the warden has a point. It IS satire (and satire is a valuable way to drive home a point) but that’s it.

    Consider the legal implications if satire were treated as reality.

  14. Matt Westwood says:

    I celebrated the Central American Orthodox Variation on the Spag Bol ritual the other night: chili con carne, rice and doritos. Although the ingredients may differ, the means of consumption, the existential experience and the end effect are all similar.

  15. A Confused Atheist says:

    The USA (the so-called ‘Land of the Free’) is violating this criminal’s right to practise his made-up nonsensical ‘faith’ in peace.