Sacred collanders and religious freedom

Many of my libertarian friends are part of the Pastafarian movement. And they really think it's funny. And I have to admit that I've never quite gotten its appeal. It all sprang from some Oregonian dude's attempt to mock intelligent design and became a huge worldwide sensation among atheists. The Flying Spaghetti Monster Church has a made-up deity and holy days and religious gear and silly formal beliefs and all that -- all to show the stupidity of religious belief. Get it? So this Austrian adherent wanted to show the stupidity of driver license regulations permitting religious adherents to wear headgear. So he put a colander on his head and took a picture. And, being that this is his religious requirement, he now has a license with a colander on his head. OK, so what's the big deal? Well, again, I'm not sure I understand. But it's seriously big news.

NPR's "The Two-Way Blog" looked at the story and gave it the headline:

Austrian 'Pastafarian': License Photo Was A Win For Freedom From Religion

It was? How so? I mean, from the story we learn that Austria basically accepts the Pastafarians' claim that they are a religion and treated them as religious adherents. That seems more like a win for religious freedom than freedom from religion, but maybe I'm missing something.

Eyder Peralta explains that Nico Alm was testing regulations. So he took the picture and then three years later (not sure why it takes three years), he got his license in the mail:

The result is, of course, humorous and it's gotten worldwide attention and on our post, at least, started a series of hilarious pasta puns ("And people who discriminate against Pastafarians will be labelled antipasti?"). Perhaps it struck a chord because it pokes fun at government bureaucracy, perhaps because one man was able to pull a fast one on a set of regulations that overhauled European Union licenses, making them more like credit cards and much more serious, including a regulation that did not allow people to smile in their official pictures.

But, Alm notes, it also strikes at the tension between church and state:

"The Republic of Austria is still very closely attached, is trying to serve religion and churches without any apparent need," Alm said. "And that's just another thing I pointed out... that something is going wrong here that there is a part of the population that can exert certain special rights that people like me, that atheist people or non-believers cannot have."

OK, I admit I had a couple of drinks at the airport bar before I got on the plane where I'm writing this ... but someone needs to explain this to me. In what way does this "strike" at the "tension" between church and state? And does it show that atheists don't get to wear headgear in their license? Because it sounds to me like it shows that they can.

We get a bit more explanation about how this is supposed to be a win for "freedom from religion":

But Alm says his aim -- as an advocate "for the clean separation of church and state" -- was to win one for freedom from religion.

"There shouldn't be any special rights for anybody because of their religious belief or non-belief," he said.

He also said, his protest isn't aimed at religions. He said he is no way poking fun at people who take their religion seriously:

"I am ridiculing the authorities," he said. "If anybody is offended there is nothing I can do, but I am offended too, if logic and reason is offended."

Alm said his next step is to get the Austrian arm of the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster officially recognized by the government.

I think the problem might be that the reporter doesn't understand Alm's claims. He is specifically saying he's not protesting religions but bureaucracy. I don't think that's the same thing as fighting for "freedom from religion."

Just in general, we could use some much better explanation of terms and an understanding of what this protest was attempting to accomplish and how, exactly, it did that.

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