The Dismissal of Federal and State Civil Right Claims
Federal District Court Declines to Protect the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster [FSM]In an entertaining, thoughtful, and well-reasoned decision the Honorable John M. Gerard, United States District Judge, for the District of Nebraska, has defined the limits of the First Amendment in the recognition of religion and the protections afforded by Federal and State constitutional and statutory provisions protecting the Free Exercise of Religious Beliefs. Judge Gerard wades into the murky waters of what defines a “true” religion that is worthy of protection. In this case, the court engaged in an analysis of the tenets of an inmate’s assertion of religious belief and dismissed a lawsuit brought by the inmate. The court concluded that the Church of FSM is “satire” and not worthy of consideration as a religion or the protections afforded religious belief under Federal and State law. This case demonstrates that the Federal judicial system will not hesitate to determine the legitimacy of the assertion of personally held religious beliefs. An inmate at a Nebraska State Penitentiary filed a lawsuit in the District of Nebraska advancing the Federal and State Claims which protect the free exercise of religious beliefs. The Plaintiff alleges violations of the religious freedom provisions of:
- The Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution;
- The Equal Protection Clause of Fourteenth Amendment of U.S. Constitution;
- Art I, § 4 of the Nebraska constitution;
- Art. I, § 3 of the Nebraska constitution.; and
- The Court analyzed the Complaint under the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA), 42 U.S.C. § 2000cc et seq.
- “FSMism is not a ‘religion’ within the meaning of the relevant federal statutes and constitutional jurisprudence”;
- “It is, rather, a parody, intended to advance an argument about science, the evolution of life, and the place of religion in public education.”
- That FSM is “fastest-growing carbohydrate-based religion”;
- That gravity may explained not by a so-called scientific theory, but rather by the “assuring touch from the FSM's Noodly Appendage”;
- That the FSM “worship service . . . is conducted in Pirate-Speak";
- That congregants attend the service “in dashing buccaneer garb.” Which was one of the Plaintiff’s request for religious accommodation;
- That the "Pastfarian" religion’s Heaven has “a Stripper Factory and a Beer Volcano”;
- The court notes that in taking judicial notice “it is clear from the FSM Gospel that ‘religious clothing’ means a pirate costume and ‘communion’ is, not surprisingly, ‘a large portion of spaghetti and meatballs.’ FSM Gospel at 38, 160”;
- The court also stated that while the Plaintiff “does not specifically identify the other ‘religious’ practices he seeks; they would presumably include such things as grog, a parrot, a seaworthy vessel, a ‘Colander of Goodness,’ and to take off every Friday as a ‘religious holiday’."