Niko Alm, an Austrian who describes himself as a “Pastafarian,” has been fighting the government to allow him to wear a pasta strainer on his head for his driver’s license photo. And after three years, he has been granted his wish.

Alm claimed that he was part of the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster and wearing the strainer was part of his religion. Austria recognizes the wearing of religious headgear in official photographs. The government, in response to Alm’s interesting request, asked him to submit to a medical interview to check on his mental fitness to drive before granting him the right to wear the strainer.  Alm now wants to apply for “Pastafarian” to become an officially recognized religion in Austria.

I have not yet heard of the Pastafarian religion in the United States but if Alm lived here as a Pastafarian and took part in the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, his religious beliefs would be protected under the First Amendment. The Establishment Clause prohibits laws respecting the establishment of religion. If the government proposes a law that prefers one sect over another, such as Pastafarianism, it will be invalid. If there is no sect preference, the government may create laws that: have a secular purpose; have a primary effect that neither advances nor inhibits religion, and; do not produce excessive government entanglement with religion. The Free Exercise Clause prohibits the government from punishing someone based on their religious beliefs and from making any law that prohibits the free exercise of religion.

So while international laws differ from those in the United States in some areas, suffice it to say that Americans would likely enjoy a similar right to wear a pasta strainer on their head in recognition of their religious beliefs, should they so choose.

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