What is the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster and why is it in court? | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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What is the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster and why is it in court?

Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster Captain Gary Smith.
Image Credit: Submitted: Gary Smith
March 08, 2021 - 6:30 AM

Its members are known for wearing pasta colanders on their heads and believing that the earth was created by a Flying Spaghetti Monster.

But the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster Captain Gary Smith explains the organization is a lot more than that and he's determined to fight for its rights, regardless of a recent court defeat.

On Feb. 26 B.C. Supreme Court ruled Smith hadn't been discriminated against on the basis of his religion.

The battle started when he wore a tricorne hat in his driving licence photo. ICBC later wrote to him saying that wasn't allowed and refused to renew his licence until the photo was changed.

Smith took it as religious discrimination and filed a complaint at the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal, but it refused to hear his case.

He then filed in the B.C. Supreme Court hoping to have the Human Rights Tribunal accept his case. He lost.

READ MORE: B.C. judge rules 'Pastafarian's' treatment by ICBC not discrimination

But he isn't dismayed.

"It's a bit of a struggle against institutionalized religious privilege," Smith told iNFOnews.ca. "We're just a small band of folks who have different beliefs and there is no good reason that we can figure out why those who believe in other major religions... are afforded rights under the constitution or the Charter of Rights and freedoms that a small band like us should not be able to enjoy, or are excluded from."

To understand where Smith is coming from, it helps to learn how the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster came about.

It was founded in 2005 in response to a move by the  Kansas State Board of Education to teach intelligent design as an alternative to evolution in school science classes.

A 24-year-old physics graduate called Bobby Henderson wrote to the board arguing that the universe was created by a Flying Spaghetti Monster and that his beliefs were just as valid as intelligent design.

The Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster says that it is just as likely right as it is just as likely wrong.

While various humanist societies have been around for decades, the Church of Flying Spaghetti Monster with its satirical nature caught on. Members also refer to themselves as Pastafarians. There are now tens of thousands of Pastafarians around the world.

Including 169 members here in B.C.

Smith said B.C. accounts for the majority of members in Canada.

For Smith, who's also a Grand Forks realtor and wedding commissioner, the Church of Flying Spaghetti Monster, means something different for everyone.

"It's essentially a collective of beliefs that are under the umbrella the Flying Spaghetti Monster, it being equally plausible an explanation (for) inscrutable aspects of the universe that other religions explain in different ways," Smith said.

It isn't is a joke either, although they don't take themselves too seriously.

Gary Smith next to the S.S. Quob in July 2017.
Gary Smith next to the S.S. Quob in July 2017.
Image Credit: SUBMITTED: Gary Smith

Pre pandemic the Church of Flying Spaghetti Monster met on the third Friday of every month at a local Girl Guides hall. Anywhere between eight and 14 members regularly show up. Members all wear their hats, either a pasta colander or a tricorne hat.

Smith wears a tricorne, as he does every Friday, even if he's showing a house working as a realtor.

So why did he join?

The 56-year old says he's always had an interest in philosophy and religion – at one point in his life, he was studying to become a catholic priest.

Catholicism didn't meet his spiritual needs and he liked the Church of Flying Spaghetti Monster's light-hearted approach. He also likes astrophysics.

"There is a limit to which we can actually know what we think we known," he said. "The Church of Flying Spaghetti Monster just embraced that inscrutability essentially, with an outlook perhaps a little more light-hearted, we don't take ourselves so seriously as some others in other religions perhaps, but that's because we are just as likely right as we are just as likely wrong."

Smith says the Church means different things to different people and reiterates he's not speaking on behalf of it, just himself as an individual member.

He is however determined to have it represented in court.

Smith lost the last case after Justice ruled was Church of Flying Spaghetti Monster was, at least in part, a satirical organization, and therefore he hadn't been discriminated against.

Smith's not sure what direction he will take in the case, but want's to either crowdsource to get a lawyer or find someone to represent the Church pro-bono.

"I think it's worth the time and the effort, it goes straight to our fundamental rights and freedoms," he said.

And while there hasn't been a successful case in Canada, around the world is a different story.

In 2015 a Massachusetts Pastafarian won the right to wear a colander in their driver's license photo. A year later a Wisconsin member did the same thing. There are other cases around the world too.

But while ICBC didn't approve of Smith's choice of headgear, not all Canadian institutions are as concerned.

Smith wore his tricorne for his firearms licence photo.

And maybe, in the future, he'll get to do the same in other official documents.

Image Credit: SUBMITTED: Gary Smith

To contact a reporter for this story, email Ben Bulmer or call (250) 309-5230 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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