Exercising his “constitutionally protected religious beliefs,” a local man won the right to wear a spaghetti strainer on his head in his driver’s license photo earlier this month. The story went viral on social media.
Even Madison Mayor Paul Soglin posted a Washington Post story about the man to his Facebook page, adding, “Why I love being mayor of Madison WI.”
Evansville lawyer Derek Allen, 32, represented Michael Schumacher after an employee at the state Division of Motor Vehicles refused to let him take his renewal photo with a colander on his head.
In a letter to the Wisconsin Department of Transportation and the DMV, Allen said Schumacher, as a member of the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster and a practicing Pastafarian, should be able to wear his religious headdress in his photo.
Allen cited state law that allows an applicant to wear a religious head covering in a driver’s license photo as long as the covering is “pushed from the forehead until a full facial image is shown.”
Pastafarians in Utah, Texas and Massachusetts have been allowed to don colanders in their identification photos, as have Pastafarians in Austria, Russia and the Czech Republic, Allen said.
What’s more, the state of Wisconsin has already recognized the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster during the last several years when the church was allowed to add displays in the Capitol rotunda during the Christmas and Easter seasons along with displays from other religions, Allen pointed out.
On Feb. 4, Allen got a response from the DMV allowing Schumacher to wear his spaghetti strainer. “Wisconsin DMV Service Centers have been advised to recognize a colander as a religious head covering, if requested by one who claims it is part of a sincerely held religious belief,” wrote Kristina Boardman, deputy DMV administrator.
Schumacher, a farmer in the Madison area, is in his late 20s, said Allen, who went to school with the Pastafarian’s brother and contacted him after hearing about his DMV troubles.
Allen was dumbfounded by the thousands of shares the story got on social media.
“Oh my God, what, the Kardashians aren’t doing anything?” Allen joked. “This is the only news to share?”
From his perspective, the story presents interesting “constitutional, First Amendment, freedom of religion” questions, Allen said, noting that he hasn’t heard of any state not allowing it.
“It’s never been litigated in a court. I think it would be somewhat of an interesting case if it got that far.”
WISC-TV’s Susan Siman and Mark Koehn interviewed Schumacher via Skype from where he was vacationing in Costa Rica — although they said he was on a mission, “Pastalytising.”
Schumacher said his faith is a real faith and that the “only dogma we believe is that there is no dogma.”
He said they worship the “Flying Spaghetti Monster who was boiled alive for our sins.”
When Siman said it sounded a little silly, Schumacher responded, “You could say that feeding 1,000 people with seven loaves of bread and seven fish is a little silly.”
Freedom from Religion Foundation co-president Annie Laurie Gaylor said she’s been following the irreverent, satiric religion for awhile.
She called it “a spoof that has a purpose,” which is to test public forums and governmental preference of religion.
Her organization has a “virtual billboard,” where users can declare and share their “non-belief.”
A drop-down menu on the foundation’s website lists 13 choices including atheist, agnostic, freethinker, humanist, skeptic, infidel and Pastafarian.
Meanwhile, Soglin said he has “an above average interest in Pastafarians.”
He said he became aware of the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster about five years ago and “frankly, found it amusing.”
The recent driver’s license challenge is “typical Madison,” he said.
Soglin even has a Flying Spaghetti Monster bumper sticker, although he said he hasn’t put it on his car.
The mayor has another connection to the Pastafarian in the news, and that’s the fact that Schumacher took one of Soglin’s daughters to homecoming.
“Don’t ask,” Soglin said on Facebook. “I am protecting her identity.”