Updtaed | The Flying Spaghetti Monster, or FSM—a levitating mass of spaghetti noodles, meatballs and eyes—is no god, a federal court in Nebraska ruled Tuesday.
Worshippers of the Flying Spaghetti Monster call their faith FSMism or Pastafarianism, a portmanteau of pasta and Rastafarianism. One such worshipper, Stephen Cavanaugh, a prisoner in a Nebraska state penitentiary, sued the state in 2014 over the right to practice his faith.
Cavanaugh argued that his religion requires him to wear special religious clothing in the form of "full pirate regalia," but that prison officials refused to allow him to do so, despite allowing members of other, recognized religions to purchase and wear special clothing and other items. Cavanaugh also argued that prison officials kept him from meeting and holding religious services with other members of his faith. He also demanded $5 million in damages for "deep emotional, psychological, and spiritual pain."
But the U.S. District Court of Nebraska found that the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster is not a religion. "It is, rather, a parody, intended to advance an argument about science, the evolution of life, and the place of religion in public education," District Judge John Gerrard wrote in a 16-page decision.
The Flying Spaghetti Monster was created—or, more accurately, revealed—to Bobby Henderson, a physics graduate student, in 2005. Henderson objected to the Kansas State Board of Education's proposal to teach intelligent design in public schools. The theory of intelligent design holds that the universe is sufficiently complex that it could not have come to be without the guiding hand of an intelligent designer—a god, in other words. But the theory, which is favored by many conservatives and evangelical Christians, does not specify which god must have had its hand on the tiller, hence Henderson's open letter to the Board of Education in 2005. "I think we can all agree that it is important for students to hear multiple viewpoints so they can choose for themselves the theory that makes the most sense to them. I am concerned, however, that students will only hear one theory of Intelligent Design. I and many others around the world are of the strong belief that the universe was created by a Flying Spaghetti Monster," Henderson wrote.
The FSM has since become a worldwide phenomenon and signal of protest against the erosion of the separation of church and state.
In 2014, Henderson weighed in in favor of Cavanaugh. "I'm skeptical of anyone asking for money, and my immediate thought was that this is a frivolous lawsuit," he wrote on his blog, which doubles as the home page for FSMism. "But after reading the court documents and talking with people in the know, I feel that here is a troubled guy who is legitimately trying to pursue his faith and, only after being stymied by the in-house prison channels, was forced to take the fight to the courts."
The court found Nebraska prison officials had been reasonable in rejecting Cavanaugh's requests for accommodation.
Correction: This first paragraph of this article originally incorrectly stated that the ruling came out of Nevada. It came from a court in Nebraska.