The rules are simple: Austrian drivers license holders are only allowed to wear head coverings in official pictures for “confessional reasons.” This regulatory exemption allows practicing Muslim women to wear hijabs while simultaneously disallowing baseball caps and cowboy hats which could potentially obstruct key identifying features.
But while refusing to conform to the selectively applied “no headgear” rules, self-professed atheist Niko Alm decided to make a political point by petitioning the government to allow him to wear his own kind of “religious headgear” in his license photo: a noodle strainer.
According to the BBC, Mr. Alm told authorities the culinary instrument was a requirement of his religion, “pastafarianism”:
The idea came into Mr Alm’s noodle three years ago as a way of making a serious, if ironic, point.
A self-confessed atheist, Mr Alm says he belongs to the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, a light-hearted faith whose members call themselves pastafarians.
The group’s website states that “the only dogma allowed in the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster is the rejection of dogma”.
But don’t think this exploitation of religious tolerance is limited to Europe. The so-called Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster is also active in the United States:
In response to pressure for American schools to teach the Christian theory known as intelligent design, as an alternative to natural selection, the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster wrote to the Kansas School Board asking for the pastafarian version of intelligent design to be taught to schoolchildren, as an alternative to the Christian theory.
In the same spirit, Mr Alm’s pastafarian-style application for a driving licence was a response to the Austrian recognition of confessional headgear in official photographs.
The licence took three years to come through and, according to Mr Alm, he was asked to submit to a medical interview to check on his mental fitness to drive but – straining credulity – his efforts have finally paid off.
It is the police who issue driving licences in Austria, and they have duly issued a laminated card showing Mr Alm in his unorthodox item of religious headgear.
This “parody religion” mocks actual people of faith with such slogans as “carbo diem,” “he boiled for your sins” and “put the spaghetti back in the holidays!” The group’s “propaganda” materials swap out God and Jesus Christ for a spaghetti monster and pirates.
Is this what “tolerance” looks like?