Ethics Dunce: Aaron Williams–Pastafarian, Jerk

flying-spaghetti-monster

Aaron Williams  practices Pastafarianism (The Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster) , which is not a religion, but a joke, a parody of religion created to mock the advocates of “intelligent design.” It’s a good joke, but like any joke, it becomes an annoyance when it stops being funny.When it has stopped being funny and it is inflicted on an audience without good reason or its consent, it is irresponsible conduct.

When Williams went to renew his drivers license at a Dayton, New Jersey Deptartment of Motor Vehicles office, he insisted on wearing a pasta strainer on his head during the taking of his license photo. He said that this was required by his religious beliefs, and thus he had a right to wear the strainer as an expression of his faith…which is, of course, the absence of faith. When the motor vehicle employee told Williams a head covering can’t be worn in license photos unless it is for legitimate religious reasons, he began taking a video of the worker with his cell phone, which is a violation of motor vehicle department policy. The police were called.

Diagnosis: Jerk.

Working for a motor vehicle department is a grim enough job without arrogant wise-asses giving you grief just for the fun of it. There is nothing to be gained by making such a pointless stand as Williams’ silly pasta strainer gag, and even if there was, the DMV is not a fair place to make it. Muslims and other groups have to be permitted to leave a head covering on for their photos; if you disagree, take it to the courts. Pastafarianism is satire, but the DMV is not a comedy club.

Meanwhile, lots of frustrated citizens were being delayed in getting on with their lives because Williams wanted to have his moment of empty protest. Nothing was accomplished, but there were plenty of innocent victims, and Aaron Williams probably is all puffed up and proud of himself, because he can’t tell the difference between principle and posturing.

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Ponter:Legal Blog Watch

Facts: NJ

Ethics Alarms attempts to give proper attribution and credit to all sources of facts, analysis and other assistance that go into its blog posts. If you are aware of one I missed, or believe your own work was used in any way without proper attribution, please contact me, Jack Marshall, at  jamproethics@verizon.net.

66 thoughts on “Ethics Dunce: Aaron Williams–Pastafarian, Jerk

  1. Muslims and other groups have to be permitted to leave a head covering on for their photos; if you disagree, take it to the courts.

    Without attempting to wear the strainer and being improperly denied (it’s not up to the DMV employees what counts as religious belief), he wouldn’t have standing to challenge it in court, would he?

    Blame the DMV employees here, not Aaron. If the employees had actually followed the (silly) law, then there wouldn’t have been an issue.

    When someone does bad and someone else complains about the badness, negative result should generally be placed on the person doing bad, not the complainer. The current dustup in the atheist community over sexism is a good example. Some people said and did sexist things. Others called them on their behavior, noting that it was likely unintentional. The people pointing out the sexism are now being accused of causing riffs. The sexism didn’t cause riffs… just pointing it out did.

    • It’s not a religion, tgt. It’s a phony religion, and he knows it. I know the point is that “every” religion is just as phony, but that’s not the law’s position, and it isn’t the DMV’s issue, and I don’t agree with the position either. There is no Church; the “holy book” is satire, and “Pastafarians” (according to his Facebook page, my son is one) don’t believe in their deity any more than the Easter Bunny. Good faith religious belief is a requirement, or should be.

      • Not lending any credence to the buffoonery of eastern mystery religion of pastafarianisn, but At what point does a movement become an actual religion?

        When its particular centralizing organization files the proper tax forms?

        • I’d say a man with a pasta strainer on his head qualifies! That would be like Jack calling himself the High Conclavite of Caninology (the philosophy of dogs as angels incarnate) and perching a certain hairy critter on his dome wherever he went as a tenant of his faith. For that matter, maybe he does! If so, he has more claim to religious exemption than the Pasta Priest.

          • “That would be like Jack … perching a certain hairy critter on his dome wherever he went as a tenant of his faith.”
            Are you saying that Jack is the of the same religion as Donald Trump?

        • I don’t intend to minimize the difficulty of that problem, but its a matter of sincerity, intent, an organizational validity. In ethics, a religion is easier to determine than in law, but it doesn’t matter in this case. There is no belief, there is no sincerity, there is no organization with religious purposes, and there is no religion. I am aware that Austria gave in and let its own native pastifarian jerk wear a strainer for his DMV photo, deciding that fighting with jerks wasn’t worth the trouble. It was lazy and wrong.

          • In other words, a religion is whatever Jack Marshall decides is a religion. There are religious people who don’t subscribe to any organized faith. By your logic, they aren’t religious. There are people who claim to be Jewish or Christian for the community and have no sincerity. By your logic, the government must deny these people accommodations. When the government is deciding whether a person really believes what they claim, there is no protection of religion.

            • That’s just word games, tgt. And agenda motivated word games. The best way to destroy respect for religion and any consideration at all is to make the case that anything can be a religion, thus making giving special considerations to religion an outrageous societal burden. Break the system. I get it. But it is intellectually dishonest. A court can take judicial notice of the fact that a claimed religion isn’t one, because everybody know it. Calling a hand a foot doesn’t make it a foot, and there are only about 10,000 court opinions referencing that fact. If a pastafarian can claim that he has to wear a pasta strainer, it doesn’t take a judicial determination to figure out that the intent is to ridicule other religions, not to honor his own. It is obvious, and a court doesn’t have to make a decree about the obvious. It would be similarly obvious that my claim that a Red Sox obsession is a “religion” (it would probably be the closest I could come to identifying my “sect”) and thus I had a constitutional right to wear my Sox cap for the DMV. This would be utter garbage, and no constitutional rights would be crushed by calling it what it was.

              You anti-religious fervor here unhinges your usual impeccable logic. Meanwhile, you’re indulging your skill in word parsing, to the end of muddling the issue. My use of “religion” was in the context of the DMV case: if a religious person has no organized faith, they cannot demand exemptions based on religion, because an unorganized religion has no requirements. It isn’t that a religion is whatever Jack Marshall decides is a religion, but that a religion can’t be whatever an atheist says is a religion in order to undermine religious rights.

              Beware lest I sic Steven on you.

              • I think what will prevail here is that taking a closer look at the behavior of the gentleman will reveal that he actually doesn’t wear the spaghetti strainer everywhere all the time. If he actually did, then I could see an exception. But I have to believe that he doesn’t, thus negating a need for an accomodation.

                • Yes, and entertaining this humorous segue, were this individual to actually wear the strainer constantly eland with devotion then it is safe to say he holds a sincere and meaningful belief in ‘pastafarianism’. That adheres to be necessary requirements alluded to by Jack.

                  • But “Religion” isn’t the subject. Faith is the subject.There’s a great comment over at Popehat: “Atheist is the belief, unfounded upon proof, that there is no God. Is not belief, unfounded upon proof, not the very definition of Faith?”

                    • I don’t think it’s a great comment, Tim. Atheism is the absence of religion. Faith is not religion, religion involves faith. Atheism is not “unfounded upon truth”, as it is impossible to prove a negative. It is founded on the burden of proof not being met by those asserting a Supreme Being. And the Pastafarian isn’t claiming that his faith is Atheism, for atheism does not require the wearing of headgear. A faith in the power of satire isn’t religion.

                      I think this is, ethically, an open and shut case, being muddled by cynical and disingenuous activists.

                    • Jack, your comment on atheism is a dictionary definition, but it’s something that most atheists find pretty empty. Atheism is the result of looking at the evidence for religion and finding it, not just wanting, but nearly definitive the other way. Based on the evidence we have, the likelihood of any religion being true is incredibly small. That’s what’s normally meant by atheism.

                      Your takedown of Tim’s ignorant comment still applies.

                  • Tax code doesn’t apply here. He’s not asking to form a religion for tax exempt status. There are different rules for individual conscientious decisions. Since the horrible Religious Freedom Restoration Act, the assumption is that he believes what he claims to.

                    • No, I know the tax code doesn’t apply, but the basis for the tax code’s exemptions do—Constitutionally protected religious belief, for which the SCOTUS requires a sincere belief. A satiric pretense of belief doesn’t seem to qualify.

                    • “sincere belief” has been interpretted as professed belief and followed it. Government actors are supposed to default to professed beliefs.

              • My use of “religion” was in the context of the DMV case: if a religious person has no organized faith, they cannot demand exemptions based on religion, because an unorganized religion has no requirements.

                And you’re flat out wrong on the law (and basic logic). Personal belief is enough, and if someone personally believes X is required, then X is required by their religion.

                You seemed to ignore my comment on sincerity, as that directly contradicts your comments on pastafarianism. The government cannot determine that someone is insincere in their beliefs.

                I absolutely agree that wearing that Aaron is making a mockery of the system, but, as noted, that mockery has to be made before there are grounds to make the system less ridiculous.

                • The Tax code strongly suggests otherwise. And the cases requiring sincerity go way back: United States v. Ballard, 322 U.S. 78, 64 S. Ct. 882, 88 L. Ed. 1148 (1944) “The Supreme Court must look to the sincerity of a person’s beliefs to help decide if those beliefs constitute a religion that deserves constitutional protection. The Ballard case involved the conviction of organizers of the I Am movement on grounds that they defrauded people by falsely representing that their members had supernatural powers to heal people with incurable illnesses. The Supreme Court held that the jury, in determining the line between the free exercise of religion and the punishable offense of obtaining property under False Pretenses, should not decide whether the claims of the I Am members were actually true, only whether the members honestly believed them to be true, thus qualifying the group as a religion under the Supreme Court’s broad definition.”

                  • As noted elsewhere, the tax code does not match the laws that apply here. Also, your supporting documentation here notes that government doesn’t get to decide what was believed. That was a question for a jury. Even in your example case, you fail.

                    • Superceded does not mean “over-ruled.” Try as I might, your expansive definition of religious belief is still not supported by religious freedom advocates, SCOTUS, any courts or commentators. A nice summary by the International Coalition for Religious Freedom, which favors a very broad definition of religious belief (and agrees that the IRS definition is “hopelessly flawed) still acknowledges that true belief, sincerity, and other markers of a genuinely held philosophy ( and not a parody of one) is both fair and necessary. I don’t thi you have a leg to stand on, in other words:

                      “The first amendment would indeed become “a limitless excuse for avoiding all unwanted legal obligations” if all claims to religious protection were accepted merely because they are asserted. Therefore, at least a working definition of religion is needed, so that minimum standards can be discerned and applied to “religious organizations” claiming tax-exempt status. Attempts to develop a working definition of “religion” in the American context must begin with the language of the United States Constitution, the intent of the framers, and interpretation by the Supreme Court….

                      “…in 1965, the Supreme Court interpreted this definition, in United States v. Seeger, to allow conscientious objector status to persons bound by a perceived duty to realities superior to man, but not affiliated with any orthodox religion. The Court found that Congress intended the term “Supreme Being” to encompass all religious but not purely political, sociological, or philosophical beliefs. Thus, the key determination was
                      “whether a given belief that is sincere and meaningful occupies a place in the life of its possessor parallel to that filled by the orthodox belief in God of one who clearly qualifies for the exemption. Where such beliefs have parallel positions in the lives of the respective holders we cannot say that one is in a relation to a ‘Supreme Being’ and the other is not.”…

                      “In 1972, Wisconsin v. Yoder indicated that the test arising out of Seeger and Welsh would not, in fact, allow the first amendment definition of religion to encompass the broad spectrum of beliefs recognized as the functional equivalent of religion in Welsh. In other words, functional equivalence in the statutory sense did not necessarily mean equivalence in the constitutional sense. The Court emphasized that philosophical and personal beliefs were not protected by the first amendment religion clauses, declaring that “the very concept of ordered liberty precludes allowing every person to make his own standards on matters of conduct in which society as a whole has important interests.” In support of its decision to allow the Amish to remove their children from the public education system after the eighth grade, the Yoder Court emphasized the “almost 300 years of consistent practice” of the Amish in this regard, as well as the fact that the beliefs were shared by an organized group. Using age and organizational structure as criteria is a highly dubious method of defining religion, but the Yoder court was probably indicating factors influential in its decision rather than attempting to provide a coherent definition.
                      The Court in Thomas v. Review Board again signalled that personal philosophical choice is not protected by the first amendment religion clauses. Chief Justice Burger stated that “[o]nly beliefs rooted in religion are protected by the Free Exercise Clause, which, by its terms, gives special protection to the exercise of religion.” While not defining religion, the Thomas decision makes it clear that a constitutional definition should distinguish between religion and mere conscientious belief….

                      “…The essence of any workable criteria that the courts and the IRS must use in determining whether an organization is a religion must be comprised of two elements: (1) a sincerely held belief in a sacred or transcendent reality and (2) an organization whose purpose and practice is to express that belief. This approach has the advantage of constitutionally required neutrality. The inclusion of the “sincerity,” “purpose” and “practice” criteria would enable the courts to eliminate shams claiming to have a religious character. Any test can be applied in a biased fashion, but the proposed test stresses equal treatment of all organizations claiming to be religions, which is the key problem with the courts’ treatment of the mail-order ministries. It is less complex and would tend to include a greater variety of religions than would the IRS’ cumbersome fourteen criteria. Shams could be excluded by examining indicia of sincerity, practice reflecting belief, and related purpose. Sincerity is a legitimate inquiry….”

                    • Superceded does not mean “over-ruled.”

                      I never claimed it did. If X supercedes Y, then X no longer applies. Why would it matter if something was overruled?

                      Try as I might, your expansive definition of religious belief is still not supported by religious freedom advocates, SCOTUS, any courts or commentators.

                      For religious freedom activists… of course not. Religious freedom activists tend to be tied to organized religions that would have the protection no matter what.

                      I’m sure I’ve seen this from the courts, but I can’t find it now. As such, I’ll willingly drop the the argument that the government has the power to determine whether someone sincerely believes (for now). Fortunately, my argument didn’t need that. If bottom level civil servants had the ability to deny people’s professed beliefs, we wouldn’t have protection for religious beliefs. “You don’t look like one of those islams, so you can’t wear that scarf thingy” and “Muslims don’t HAVE to wear the hijab” would be common results.

                      Assuming the government has the power to make determinations of belief, they would have to do so after the fact for ongoing benefits. Anything else is too ripe for abuse.

                    • Now, this may be the way you think it should be, and may even be the way it should be, but I see no evidence that this is the way it is, or ever likely to be. No admittedly fake religion—and there could hardly be a better example of a fake religion than pastafarianism—will ever be recognized as deserving First Amendment protection.

                    • Jack,

                      I see no evidence that this is the way it is, or ever likely to be
                      No evidence? You mean other than the religious exemptions for wearing a crucifix that applied to all sorts of other religions and symbols? You mean like the exemptions from pork that were transferred from Jews to Muslims?

                      No admittedly fake religion—and there could hardly be a better example of a fake religion than pastafarianism—will ever be recognized as deserving First Amendment protection.

                      Even if the person who created it thought it was fake, someone could still sincerely believe in it, and the belief of the person believing is what matters, right?

                      I likely agree that it wouldn’t be protected…but it would be a direct contradiction of supreme court precedent. All religions are made up crap. Some are just older than others.

              • First, let me say I’m happy to see people actually having a real discussion about this. I believe that was part of the motivation for this individual’s actions. Most of the other articles in Google’s results for this are all useless comments. that being said, the comments here seem to all be addressing the wrong questions – about what exemptions there should be, who should decide this or that. all completely the wrong questions. as such, i couldn’t help but throw in my two cents (or from the looks of the length of this post, more like a buck fifty).

                @Jack Marshall – out of all the commenters i disagree with you the most. “I don’t intend to minimize the difficulty of that problem, but it’s a matter of sincerity, intent, an organizational validity. In ethics, a religion is easier to determine than in law, but it doesn’t matter in this case. There is no belief, there is no sincerity, there is no organization with religious purposes, and there is no religion.” this is precisely the problem – when we have people like you or our government determining things like “organizational validity”, “intent”, and “sincerity”. if you do believe that we should have a freedom of religion then i would imagine that would entail also choosing what religion or creating a new one, even a satirical one. people like you only want APPROVED religions to get exemptions and special treatment. the only area where i will probably agree with that is tax treatment – if you want special tax treatment you had better show good reason to get it. but, that’s true of a lot more than just religious organizations (401c charities for example) – so it’s really not all that different. and as far as i know, there have been no claims for special tax treatment anywhere within pastafarianism.

                @tgt – you get it. thank you. I think from the looks of these comments you are the only one who gets it. your comment(s) are perfect – “In other words, a religion is whatever Jack Marshall decides is a religion……When the government is deciding whether a person really believes what they claim, there is no protection of religion.” exactly my thoughts – we need protection from the Jack Marshalls of the world.

                the approach to religious expression and worship should be plain and simple as far as i can see – you should have the ability to do whatever you please so long as it does not violate any existing laws and does not infringe upon anyone else’s rights. thankfully, the government seems to follow this concept reasonably well still. so let’s examine what happened in this case. a guy with the equivalent of an oversized yarmulke walks in to a NJ DMV and isn’t allowed to take his photo with it because a random DMV employee declares it is not religious attire. they make him out to be a nuisance and people in line get annoyed. but if they just followed their OWN clearly stated policy and stop trying to classify and determine what is and is not religious attire they would have been fine. i live in NJ so i decided to call them up just to see what they would say. i played dumb and said i converted to judaism last year and now wear a yarmulke and i got notice in the mail i am up for renewal. i then asked if i am allowed to wear it for the photo and stated that i really would prefer not to have to take it off before they answered me. they said it would be no problem at all. as long as my face from my forehead to my chin are clearly visible it doesn’t matter. i asked if that was the official policy because i didn’t want to show up and be told something different. they assured me there would be no problem and that was indeed the official policy (the forehead to chin rule).

                so then why if this guy adhered to the DMV’s very own policy would they not allow him to take it?

                @Jack Marshall (again) – your comments about destroying respect for religion intrigue me. why do you assume religion deserves respect? because a lot of people subscribe to it? some people would disagree with that. i think that means it merely needs to be tolerated. just as we must tolerate the existence of people like the guy in this article. furthermore, why do you assume religion deserves exemptions in certain cases? aren’t we all supposed to follow the same laws? so why don’t’ we just forget about religious exemptions and have everyone worship and express themselves freely within the confines of the law without exemption? why/how is that difficult? regarding your Red Sox example…if that’s what you claimed why would it be “utter garbage”? because you don’t truly believe it? if it follows the DMV policy…what’s the difference? why does it matter at all? again, same rules for everyone. i think you should be able to. you also claim that an unorganized religion has no requirements. there are many spiritual people in the world that don’t follow organized religion. they place their own set of rules upon themselves. but you would say to them they are making it up and don’t really believe it when really you have no idea what they really believe. the one area that i actually agree with you on is when you say the first amendment would go to hell and become a way for people to avoid doing things they are legally required to do. hence my suggestion that there are no exemptions and everyone follows all rules. plain and simple.

                i pose the following situation to you Jack – let’s say someone is religious by your standard and part of their religion is that it specifically doesn’t allow for income taxes (remember that any interest on loans is considered usury in Islam so we’ll change it up to be income taxes here, not that far of a stretch). let’s also assume this person really truly believes this in their heart. and this is well documented and easily proved. should this person be given an exemption because they have an approved, organized religion and they really believe this? or do you make them pay? it’s simple and fair to determine from my end of the table. what say ye on the other side?

                • There is no “Marshall” standard for religion. There is a Marshall standard for reality, and it is the real and honest one. Someone pretending to be a horse in horse costume is not a horse. Someone claims a religious exemption who is not religious, but merely imitating a religion for satirical purposes, is not religious, any more than the two people in the horse suit constitute a horse. I know, and you know, that there is no Patafarian that believes in the Flying Spaghetti Monster’s existence. I’m a lawyer—lawyer’s play the “but do you REALLY ever know?” gane all the time. This is the lowest, most cynical, most dishonest version of it I have yet to see, however.

                  It’s a dishonest argument, from the Pastafarian, from tgt, and from you. I’m glad you enjoy the word and mind games, but you “know” I’m correct. I get the sequence: you think all religion is a joke, ergo, a joke religion is as legitimate as any other. Clever, but unfair. The other believers don’t regard their religion as a joke, or a pretense to undermine relgion generally. Do phony believers get get benefit of religious exemptions? Sure—but we can’t tell who they are. We can tell, with 100% certainty, that Pastafarians do NOT believe in their fake religion, however, and there is no getting around that, for all your phony indignation and sophistry.

                  • This is not the first time you have claimed “word games” in these comments – @tgt you said “That’s just word games, tgt. And agenda motivated word games” and later said tgt was “indulging [their] skill in word parsing, to the end of muddling the issue”. I specifically tried to construct my response to avoid any possibility of being accused of this by you because I suspected it would be the first thing you would respond with because the argument is logically, ethically, and morally sound. Yet, amazingly, I still received this accusation of playing word games. I find this amusing because I see it as you who indulges in such things – “There is no ‘Marshall’ standard for religion. There is a Marshall standard for reality…” If this isn’t you playing word games, I don’t know what is because it is very obvious from your responses in this thread that you have a very definitive idea about the standards for defining religion…and because you have said EXACTLY that – “In ethics, a religion is easier to determine than in law”.

                    I openly acknowledge that I do not think that this guy believes in the FSM. And I do understand why you say it’s a dishonest argument – because you believe there is requirement of genuine faith in a claim to be granted religious exemptions. But that’s completely and entirely not the point this guy was trying to make, nor was it the point of my post. The question is not “why did this guy make a phony claim?” The questions are why should these exemptions exist? Why should government define religion or have to approve it? Why didn’t the DMV follow its own self stated policy? Why is this such a big deal as long as his face is clearly visible?

                    I have also noticed that while you are, of course, under no obligation to respond to any of the questions or points posed in my prior post (which you chose not to), you decided instead to label me a player of word games and the argument dishonest. Something I assume you saw as an easy out – label me as presenting a dishonest argument and the rest doesn’t need to be addressed, especially the hypothetical scenario I posed directly to you to see where you would stand. You could have just as easily not responded to my comment. Your chosen actions reveal much more.

                    Don’t think your tactics go unnoticed. They are obvious.

                    • 1. Yes, I have referenced word games because that’s what your argument is.
                      2. No, that is not the point. I don’t necessarily disagree at all that religious exemptions exemptions shouldn’t exist.
                      3. Challenge them straight on, honestly, instead of using cheap stunts. Get laws passed. Gumming up the works with bogus claims and stunts is neither fair, honest, or in the spirit of a nation of laws.

                    • You’re out of line, and can back off. You waited 8 days to even respond to the post, and you accuse me of a “tactic” because I don’t respond to every one of your deathless observations on the day you deign to send them? Who do you think you are? I respond to about 50 comments a day—find me another gainfully employed blogger who does that. When a commenter chooses to write a screed rather than boil his argument down to manageable size, I will respond to it to the degree that I have time, that it interests me, and that I deem it worth responding to—in short, the same considerations every commenter and reader has regarding my posts. I don’t accuse a reader who chooses to pick out one part of an Ethics Alarms post of engaging in a “tactic”…a tactic for what? I don’t even know who you are, and I couldn’t care less. I don’t have to beat you into submission or prove myself the superior intellect in a death struggle. This is old territory. I argue with fanatics all the time.

                      Your hypothetical wasn’t worth the effort, because it is off topic. Paying taxes is not a First Amendment issue, and the matter has been litigated. What can be called the free exercise of religion has been defined in a long string of court cases, based on many factors.

                      The pastafarian’s obnoxious stunt is dishonest because its a lie. He doesn’t have a religion, doesn’t believe in a Supreme Being, and doesn’t observe any defined philosophy. Moreover, he isn’t engaging in legitimate civil disobedience, violating a law that is unjust. He is violating a law that he thinks IS just–the requirement of getting one’s photograph taken without obstructions—just to call attention to the fact that others get away with it because of the Constitutional deference to religion. The proper remedy is an Amendment, and the proper people to harass are in Congress.

                    • pot calling the kettle black i see? you accuse me of word games. i call you out on a tactic. these are, in my opinion, equivalent events. but you come back and tell me i’m out of line and can back off…? something seems amiss…

                      as you said – a man is a horse costume is not a horse no matter what you say. i know my argument is not word games, despite your designation as such.

                      it took me 8 days to respond because 1) i didn’t find this website and article on day one, 2) i wanted to read all the comments before posting a response, and 3) you’re not the only busy and gainfully employed individual. that being said, i mentioned in advance that you are/were under no obligation to respond. i did that in an attempt to quell any thoughts that i think i deserve or am automatically entitled to a response. but the fact that you chose to respond in the manner you did was very telling. that’s what i was calling out. THAT was the tactic. a tactic for what you asked…simple – a way to quickly be responsive and dismissive in the same stroke. you have shared that you are a lawyer. if you are going to claim you don’t know this tactic, you would be lying.

                      yes, my posts are long, but they could not be boiled down to a substantially smaller size without opening myself up to holes in my thought process.

                      my hypothetical wasn’t worth the effort…not because it was off topic – but rather because your view was narrow. if there is ever a major tax issue related to religious beliefs (keyword MAJOR, not some minority religion which can be questioned) – you can bet your life on the fact that the first amendment will be brought into it. i can guarantee it.

                      not to worry though, i’ll be backing off. not because i have your permission (which is nice to have though), but because i’ve shared my thoughts as have you, and there most likely is nothing more to garner from the conversation for either of us.

                      as i said in my first post, this is the only worthwhile conversation on the internet on this specific event. i may seriously disagree with you and the majority of commenters here, but this was the only website worth posting on.

                    • 1. I don’t comprehend your definition of word games. I use “tactic” appropriately—my replies are not “tactics”, which suggest guile.
                      2. I don’t care why you took 8 days. You can take however long you want. My point was that it is a bit ridiculous to answer at your leisure and than cry foul when I don’t immediately dance to your tune.
                      3. I responded in the manner I did and to the points I did because I did not have either the time nor the inclination to do more. If I was determined to avoid arguments I couldn’t deal with, the tactic would be called cherry-picking. But that is not what I was doing, because I have no investment in “winning” an argument with you or anyone. I addressed the issue worth addressing. It’s a different motivation entirely.
                      4. There’s nothing wrong with long comments. They enrich the blog—I’m grateful for them. Yours enriched the blog. But I am not obligated to rebut each one point by point—I can’t, won’t, and usually don’t.
                      5. Your question involved the INCOME TAX, not taxes generally. Yes, there are taxes that could involve First Amendment issues and religion, and have been. The income tax issue, however, is long, long settled. Had I had the time, yes, I might have invited you to refine it to a point where a discussion would be fruitful. Sorry. Other deadlines to meet. Don’t take it personally.

      • So exactly how do you differentiate, legally, between what is “phony” and what is not? Popularity? What is the legal test?

        The reason I ask is because of the NY decisions denying the Maetrum of Cybele – a tradition dating back over 2500 years – religious exemption from property taxes, despite having scripture, regular services, high holy days, ceremonies, vestments and all the usual trappings of more popular religions. Including running a non-profit refuge for victims of domestic violence, which alone should have qualified for tax relief.

        I’m IPU(reformed) myself. We look upon Pastafarians with tolerant amusement.

        • Based on a cursory reading of articles about the maetreum it would seem the town of Catskill decided the self-proclaimed headquarters of the revived (revived as of 1999, so not really a 2500 year tradition) Cybele movement was not eligible for full tax exemption. They determined at the initial assessment that the house was not being used primarily for a religious purpose. The town then went on to describe other property owned by other religious organizations that were not being used for primarily religious purposes and indicated that those too were not fully tax exempt.

          Their determination that the maetreum is not fully tax exempt implies that it was eligible for some sort of partial tax exemption which you claimed it deserved.

      • And nothing you said there is relevant to my comment. The government is not allowed to determine what is and isn’t sincere belief, or what the actual tenets of a religion are.

        • Perhaps the solution to an old argument over opposition to compulsory military service did establish a precendent on this:

          “religious training and belief,” which Congress has defined as “belief in a relation to a Supreme Being involving duties superior to those arising from any human relation.”

          Further clarifying:

          “The test of religious belief within the meaning of the exemption in § 6(j) is whether it is a sincere and meaningful belief occupying in the life of its possessor a place parallel to that filled by the God of those admittedly qualified for the exemption.”

          Same concept with additional language:

          “the test of belief “in a relation to a Supreme Being” is whether a given belief that is sincere and meaningful occupies a place in the life of its possessor parallel to that filled by the orthodox belief in God of one who clearly qualifies for the exemption.”

            • I guess so. It seems like that is the ruling.

              I don’t see why it is a must be assumed. Would seem that burden of proof of membership in a religion rests on the person seeking the exception.

              • If religious exemptions only applied to people in registered religions, that would make sense to me. This isn’t the case though. There is no list of officially allowed religions and there is no requirement that someone be a member of a recognized religion. Religious exemptions apply to anyone with a personal religious belief. It doesn’t have to gibe with any existing religions, an the government isn’t even allowed to determine what any particular religion holds. (The government can be gifted the latter right by individuals in some cases, but that’s really interpretting contracts, not religious belief).

                How does one prove that they believe something?

                • There is no list of officially allowed religions and there is no requirement that someone be a member of a recognized religion.

                  This has no bearing on the discussion, appears to be mostly obfuscation in an attempt to vaguely attribute an implication to me.

                  There does not need to be a list. The items I quoted above seem set a standard. There are obviously religions that fit the exceptions rules as noted in the language:

                  “The test of religious belief within the meaning of the exemption in § 6(j) is whether it is a sincere and meaningful belief occupying in the life of its possessor a place parallel to that filled by the God of those admittedly qualified for the exemption.

                  “the test of belief “in a relation to a Supreme Being” is whether a given belief that is sincere and meaningful occupies a place in the life of its possessor parallel to that filled by the orthodox belief in God of one who clearly qualifies for the exemption.

                  “It doesn’t have to gibe with any existing religions”

                  The same language from the ruling implies that, although it doesn’t have to ‘jibe’ with a particular religion, it does have to be significant in that person’s life to qualify as an actual religion and not just tomfoolery to poke fun at the system. Thus protecting the system from legal-loophole abusing assholes like this literal ‘pastafarian’.

                  “How does one prove that they believe something?

                  The same way all of the *actual* religions had to establish their exceptions to particular situations, by taking their needed exceptions to court.

                  • This has no bearing on the discussion, appears to be mostly obfuscation in an attempt to vaguely attribute an implication to me.

                    You said this: “Would seem that burden of proof of membership in a religion rests on the person seeking the exception.”

                    You referenced “proof of membership in a religion” not “proof that someone holds beliefs of God or similar to God.”

                    So, I now believe you mean: “Would seem that burden of proof of [sincere belief in God or something parallel to God] rests on the person seeking the exception.” I’ll respond to tha.

                    The key here is the difficulty in determining what constitutes proof. How about ability to discuss it? The pastarfarian would easily clear this hurdle. Providing symbols and texts? Again, the pastafarian can clear this hurdle, but now some real religious people can’t.

                    Would the determination be equal under the law? If someone holds up a crucifix, would that be enough proof, while the pastafarian (or druid) was held to a higher standard?

                    For fairness to all, to attempt to make the laws work, I think we need assumption of belief.

                    “How does one prove that they believe something?

                    The same way all of the *actual* religions had to establish their exceptions to particular situations, by taking their needed exceptions to court.

                    The court cases were to balance government interests against the invasion on the rights of the believer… not to simply see if the person had a sincere belief. Once headcoverings were allowed on licenses for a specific self-proclaimed Muslim, the next self-proclaimed Muslim didn’t need to prove they had a sincere religious belief as well.

                    Moreover, the MVA rules shouldn’t call out that Muslims can wear head coverings; they should explain what do do when someone claims they need to wear a headcovering for religious reasons. Rules about how much face must be exposed or secondary processes to validate the person.

                    Once one government employee won the right to wear a crucifix to work, other employees could now wear ichthyses(sp?), stars of David, crescents, and other religious symbols.

                    If it was a new type of exception, like only being photographed in profile or blocking the complete face, it would likely need a new case… not for new belief, but for the new exception. (I think there’s actually a case for the latter going on right now.)

                    • First of all, no need for the rewording of what I stood. The two concepts you interchanged can go hand in hand given the ruling I quoted. Once you start these games I quickly realize you are spinning up a bad faith word game or spin off. So you can pretty well delete your paragraphs 2-4. And further confirms my concern you quoted in your 1st paragraph.

                      2nd, we aren’t discussing an individual’s entire belief system and all the facets that go with it, we are discussing how specific elements of an *actual* religion may lead to needing an exception from a governmental regulation or law. Your paragraphs 5-7 (burden of proof in your terms) pretty well ignore my assessment that any member of a religion who has had an exception denied based on ignorance of a bureaucrat obviously must go through the process of having that exception understood (like all the others have). Of course it wouldn’t be that massive of an issue if there weren’t jack-asses like the aforementioned pastafarian who has nothing better to do but be arrogant and denigrate people who actually sincerely hold beliefs.

                      Your paragraph 10 (once one clears the hurdle, others may follow) really only reinforces my assertion and the follow on paragraphs 11-12 (details) makes since in that regard.

                    • First of all, no need for the rewording of what I stood. The two concepts you interchanged can go hand in hand given the ruling I quoted.

                      Jack, remember your post about how we get bad statistics? It’s because of acceptance of things like this.

                      Being a member of religion is absolutely not the same thing as having a religious belief.

                      Once you start these games I quickly realize you are spinning up a bad faith word game or spin off. So you can pretty well delete your paragraphs 2-4. And further confirms my concern you quoted in your 1st paragraph.

                      This is an indictment of you, not me. You said something that you didn’t intend, and you’re upset at me for not reading your mind. If I can’t take your word at your word, then we can’t discuss things. I can’t ever know what you actually meant.

                      This does happen to everybody on occasion, and there are agreed upon norms for handling it. Instead of attacking me, you could have given a simple “oops. I meant X and substituted Y. I thought you would understand”. Instead, you assumed bad faith. What’s worse is that you thought my attempt to inform you of the disconnect (without blame, by the way), was further bad faith. I thought it was a good faith effort to clear the air and get back on topic. (If I was going to obfuscate, I’d pretend your comment hadn’t clarified in my mind what you meant to say.)

                      Whew. Now onto real topic instead of meta accusations.

                      2nd, we aren’t discussing an individual’s entire belief system and all the facets that go with it, we are discussing how specific elements of an *actual* religion may lead to needing an exception from a governmental regulation or law.

                      You start this sentence off with a strawman. Nowhere did I suggest we look at “an individual’s entire belief system”. We are talking about individual religious beliefs. The two are, again, completely different (SCOTUS backs the latter while rejecting the former)

                      Continuing on, it looks like you’re attempting to write personal religious belief out of existence. You seem to be claiming that the belief is either a personal belief or a religious belief. In reality, personal religious beliefs are what are protected. It doesn’t have to be part of a larger religious belief system. (Being part of a large belief system helps, but it’s not necessary)

                      Your paragraphs 5-7 (burden of proof in your terms) pretty well ignore my assessment that any member of a religion who has had an exception denied based on ignorance of a bureaucrat obviously must go through the process of having that exception understood (like all the others have).

                      Yes, those paragraphs ignore that idea. Why? Because they’re not responding to that idea. That idea came after the point I was responding to in 5-7, and it was was responded to in paragraphs 10-13 (the last 4).

                      Your paragraph 10 (once one clears the hurdle, others may follow) really only reinforces my assertion and the follow on paragraphs 11-12 (details) makes since in that regard.

                      I don’t get this. Paragraphs 10-12 show that once an exception of a certain type/quality is granted, it applies to everyone. Wearing a colander is no different in type/quality than wearing a scarf. There’s no additional impediment on government interests that needs to be balanced against religious liberty. You have been claiming that the Pastafarian colander is a new exception, but it’s really just the headwear exception for a different religion. In my response, I covered how religious exemptions for one religion have immediately applied to all other religions with similar beliefs. Those beliefs did not have to be re-litigated. In paragraph 13 I explained when your idea of new litigation is actually required.

                    • Ok, TGT, if you are going to play bad faith word games as is your frustrating habit, then I’ll not continue with you.

                      But if we are going to have this discussion like responsible adults, then you’re going to have to leave the play ground and join the grown ups.

                      Let me summarize our conversation thus far (as is becoming an annoying ritual I must perform when you begin your immature spirals)

                      Tex: Someone seeking a religious exception to a law ought to indicate they are in the religion. Duh.

                      TGT: Your initial muddling of intent as is your preference.

                      Tex: A person’s claim to be part of a religion (or sincere and meaningful parallel) that has a recognized exception to a policy and that those particular religious beliefs are held by the same person with the same sincerity and meaning go hand in hand. Merely claiming to have a belief, if that belief has not been recognized as fitting the definition as per the standards laid out in the ruling above, does not cut it.

                      TGT: More obfuscation attempting to deepen your earlier obfuscation

                      Tex: Deconstruction of your obfuscation

                      Which leads us to your latest battery of nonsense.

                      “Jack, remember your post about how we get bad statistics? It’s because of acceptance of things like this.” -TGT

                      You’re an idiot.

                      “You said something that you didn’t intend, and you’re upset at me for not reading your mind. If I can’t take your word at your word, then we can’t discuss things. I can’t ever know what you actually meant.” -TGT

                      No, the ruling I quoted was pretty clear in its language of explaining what qualifies a belief system that may require exceptions as being worthy of having exceptions. You are still an idiot. Made up ‘religions’ to mock actual religions or their parallels do not qualify. Support such makes you an ass in addition to an idiot.

                      “You start this sentence off with a strawman. Nowhere did I suggest we look at “an individual’s entire belief system”. We are talking about individual religious beliefs. The two are, again, completely different (SCOTUS backs the latter while rejecting the former)

                      Continuing on, it looks like you’re attempting to write personal religious belief out of existence. You seem to be claiming that the belief is either a personal belief or a religious belief. In reality, personal religious beliefs are what are protected. It doesn’t have to be part of a larger religious belief system. (Being part of a large belief system helps, but it’s not necessary)” -TGT

                      I will not respond to this as you are inventing words and intentions for me. A common and wrong practice in which you engage.

                      “Your paragraph 10 (once one clears the hurdle, others may follow) really only reinforces my assertion and the follow on paragraphs 11-12 (details) makes since in that regard.

                      I don’t get this.” -TGT

                      How do you not get it now? You explained it well before. I actually congratulated you. Granted you didn’t mean to support my point, but you did.

    • “When someone does bad and someone else complains about the badness, negative result should generally be placed on the person doing bad, not the complainer. ”

      What exactly did the DMV employee do that was “bad?” Kudos to the DMV employee to use their brain and correctly deduce that the religion is strictly a satire created to mock other religions. The DMV is simply following the law. The proper place to address this is either in the legislature and / or the courts, not some time wasting stunt.

      • Take it to the courts you say? I think that’s what he’s done. He’s giving himself standing with the courts. You can’t just show up first. You have to be “wronged” in order to show up. You can’t be proactive. You have to have a good faith attempt first which includes conflict, impass, and ensuing disruption.

      • The DMV employee improperly determined that someone’s avowed religious belief wasn’t believed. The government is required to assume that professed beliefs are actual beliefs. It doesn’t matter if pastafarianism is satire. If it claims to be religious, then it’s protected… just like all other belief systems that claim to be religious.

  2. It’s a bit of a shame, it trivialized people in minority religions. i would say one must be careful to note their followers, what they ascribe to, how they would relate. One person, or their gaggle of a fan base, if they have no working, logical theory doth not make a belief. Makes for an attention seeker.
    Unfortunate and in a way, racist attempt to get the headdress many others need in defining their status in religion. Crass and ignorant.

    Even that may not define a religion. There are too many cases like this that tie up the system. Case in point – wordpress pages. Many of them are garbage pages – made up pages to circulate misinformation ( not yours in fact ). So when you are up against a deluge of false cases, real situations get missed all the time. I know of people that want to ‘start cults’ – have met them – they profess this type of power grabbing with glee. Look at social networks, and I guess, most people feel they are so entitled they could claim a cabbage to be their dependent – and perhaps even protest it on a crane, like in France this week. Legitimate claims are being drowned out by bogus appeals and extreme appeals to cases that could be processed or worked out. I am drowning under fake pages, claims and bad cases. Then my case will not get heard.

    Now if he had death threats and really believed in his pasta, enough to dodge the threats, maybe a different story – that is, unless he is not suicidal and ill.

    • It’s a bit of a shame, it trivialized people in minority religions.

      The trivializers are the DMV employees and Jack, not the pastafarian.

      One person, or their gaggle of a fan base, if they have no working, logical theory doth not make a belief.

      This is incoherent. Pastafarianism is no less logical than Christianity.

      Unfortunate and in a way, racist attempt to get the headdress many others need in defining their status in religion.

      How in the world was this racist? Are you just throwing buzzwords together?

      Even that may not define a religion.

      You didn’t define religions above.

      Now if he had death threats and really believed in his pasta, enough to dodge the threats, maybe a different story – that is, unless he is not suicidal and ill.

      If people threatened him, that would make his belief religion? Really? It’s only religion if it’s shunned? Also, what does suicidal or ill have to do with the matter? Are you saying that suicidal and ill people’s religious beliefs are discounted?

      • I am not throwing buzzwords together. Here in Canada we have had cases, as are world wide about people not being allowed to wear head dress. I should have been clearer. Now, does that not take the legitimacy away from established religion if someone genuinely believes in a made up order?

        In principle I feel it would establish a basis from which to work if his case is correct.

        Good point on the issue of threats, except when it comes to online behaviour, what I am saying it takes the legitimacy out of real cases.

        I by no means said christian religion is logical, albeit it more logical to many followers. I am not Christian, I am trying to help you understand that it has many facets, including the christian influences are in my work, as my or work influences go back that far.

        Can you accept I am speaking from genuine experience?

        I am talking about the right to express belief, not what makes it right or wrong.

        In my experience, people try to attract attention for many different reasons – such unconscious self-sabotaging behavior.
        I try and understand what makes for this type of behaviour and study social media too etc. I am not sure what your job title is, and if I had a link to your name, I would love to study your point of view. That’s what I do.

        I work with many people with emotional problems and mental illness and I am not suggesting this is ‘bad’ – yet I see much behaviour on the net as being borderline self-destructive. Narcissism, not religion is being fed by social media. This would then bring it into a different discussion.

        This is the way I see human behavior. This forum is about learning about it yes?

        • I don’t understand your English in the first 3 paragraphs. They seem to say nothing, but at least nothing on the same point.

          The fourth paragraph is another word salad, and it appears to directly contradict your previous comment: that logic is required for religion.

          Can you accept I am speaking from genuine experience?
          The fifth paragraph is actually a coherent question. Unfortunately, it’s completely irrelevant to anything. I attacked specific ridiculous statements you made. Whether you were speaking from experience or not doesn’t change the merit of those statements. your experience has no bearing on the fact that your referenced a nonexistent attempt to define religion. It has no bearing on your comment that logic is required for religious belief. It has no bearing on your belief that attempting to get equality under the law on a topic that does not involve race is racist.

          I am talking about the right to express belief, not what makes it right or wrong.

          Has anyone had a problem with that?

          In my experience, people try to attract attention for many different reasons – such unconscious self-sabotaging behavior.
          I try and understand what makes for this type of behaviour and study social media too etc.

          Sure…where does that factor in? Are you begging the question and assuming this was negative attention seeking behavior instead of necessary attempt to create standing to challenge a silly law?

          I am not sure what your job title is, and if I had a link to your name, I would love to study your point of view. That’s what I do.

          What does my job title have to do with my critique of your comments? What would a link to my name do? What does my name have to do with my point of view?

          If it helps at all. I’m a 30ish straight white male atheist libertarian/liberal software engineer whose father was a former Jesuit (and still active in the church). I accept the primacy of evidence, the reality of deductive logic, and, to a lesser degree, the reality of inductive logic. I’m for the free and open expression of ideas, including criticism of ideas. Does that help you?

          I work with many people with emotional problems and mental illness and I am not suggesting this is ‘bad’ – yet I see much behaviour on the net as being borderline self-destructive. Narcissism, not religion is being fed by social media. This would then bring it into a different discussion.

          Yes, by complete non sequitur, but yes.

  3. He’s an ass, pure and simple. This has nothing to do with religion, just with this idiot trying to be a pain in the butt to the people who work there and the people who have to go there. Someone should have punched him in the throat and tossed his stupid yuppie ass out the door.

    • You’re an idiot, pure and simple. This has everything to do with the state’s unfair treatment of traditional religious beliefs over non-traditional religious beliefs and non-religious beliefs. I’m just going to tell you you’re a prejudiced fool who doesn’t understand ethics.

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