‘Pastafarian’ fights to wear pasta strainer in license photo
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A Chicago-area woman wants to sue for the right to wear a pasta strainer.
When Rachel Hoover renewed her driver’s license June 27, she persuaded supervisors to let her wear a colander — a symbol of her religious beliefs — in the ID photo.
As a Pastafarian, Hoover belongs to the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster.
Now, the state says her license will become invalid if she doesn’t retake the picture before July 29.
On Facebook, the 21-year-old called it a matter of “religious freedom” and said she was ridiculed by workers and others at the Schaumburg Secretary of State Drivers Services center.
“A woman, she passed by and she said pretty loudly with a sneer, ‘It just looks silly,’ ” said Hoover, an Arlington Heights resident. “It’s demeaning and insulting.”
After receiving notice from the Secretary of State’s office that she was issued an ‘incorrect’ photo and required to take a new one, Hoover said she lodged a complaint with the American Civil Liberties Union.
Hoover, a student at Northern Illinois University, said she wants to sue for religious discrimination, but a lawsuit doesn’t fit into her college budget.
Becoming an ordained Pastafarian minister does. She said she has been a believer for about six years, paid $25 to get the license and “solidify” her case.
Some Pastafarians in Massachusetts, Wisconsin and Georgia have won the right to wear what Hoover calls a “religious headdress” in their license photos.
In Illinois, members of recognized religions, including Orthodox Jews and Muslims, are allowed to wear traditional items in ID photos as long as the face is completely exposed, Secretary of State’s office spokesman Dave Druker said.
But the state doesn’t recognize Pastafarianism as a religion.
“If you look into their history, it’s more of a mockery of religion than a practice itself,” Druker said.
Religious items worn throughout the day are also permitted in photos, according to Druker, but Hoover wasn’t wearing the colander when she entered the facility. She put it on just before the picture was taken.
Hoover said the colander serves as a reminder that the Pastafarian deity, the Flying Spaghetti Monster, is always watching from above.
The Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster emerged in 2005 when founder Bobby Henderson published a letter proposing that schools teach multiple theories of “intelligent design” alongside the theory of evolution.
Pastafarianism is recognized as an official religion in The Netherlands and New Zealand, but not in the United States.
Within the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, members have varying degrees of belief; some see it as satirical, while others take it more literally.
Hoover said she’s a strong believer.
“It’s a theory and we do understand that,” she said. “It doesn’t mean there aren’t real believers. I believe in the Flying Spaghetti Monster. I believe in Pastafarianism.”
If it does come down to losing her license, Hoover said she’ll retake the photo sans strainer. Either way, she said she won’t stop fighting for Pastafarians to be treated equally.
“I just want freedom of religion. It’s not right that my religious headdress is not allowed when others are,” she said. “I face challenges, but I will definitely not give up.”