Pastafarian Tells Local Officials That She Wants Her Religion Represented in the Public Square

In 2010, the Chester County Commissioners (in Pennsylvania) passed a resolution allowing them to control what displays are put in front of the Chester County Courthouse. Essentially, they decided the best option was a display featuring Santa, a sleigh with gifts, candy canes, and the like.

That also meant the Freethought Society couldn’t put up its Tree of Knowledge:

Last year, still unable to put up their tree, members of the Freethought Society created a Human Tree of Knowledge in protest:

Credit: Tom Kelly IV - Daily Local News

This year, members of the group spoke directly to the Commissioners to get them to change their mind. The most memorable speech may have come from Tracy McPherson, who argued that her religion was being excluded from the public square:

Tracy McPherson of Thornbury, who identified herself as a minister of the Evangelical Pastafarian Church, told the commissioners that she had been dismayed last year when she drove by the courthouse in downtown West Chester and noticed the lack of any display concerning her faith.

“It would be meaningful to our congregation to see our faith recognized on public property at the Chester County Courthouse in the same way that the Christian and Jewish religions are currently acknowledged,” said McPherson…

“The holiday season is very important to Pastafarians, as it coincides with out primary holiday, which is called Holiday,” McPherson said. “It is a time of joyful feasting, with unlimited pasta and grog, the favored drink of our Lord.”

“Many people find my religion laughable,” McPherson told the commissioners, who seemed to take her presentation seriously. But “in the words of Isaac Asimov, one man’s religion is another man’s belly laugh.”

I think I’m most impressed by how she kept a straight face the whole time she spoke.

A discussion between the Commissioners about how to handle the holiday displays is set to take place tonight. My guess is that they won’t change their policy, but I love how the atheists in West Chester are making sure that Christians don’t get special treatment.

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.

  • http://twitter.com/catdumpling Cat MacKinnon

    i couldn’t even keep a straight face watching the video!

  • http://boldquestions.wordpress.com/ Ubi Dubium

    As another minister of the CoFSM I say Pesto Be Upon You, Tracy!  Well done!  I’m pretty sure that I could not have done that and kept a straight face the entire time.  That was brilliant.

    (But you weren’t wearing Pirate Regalia.  That’s OK, His Noodliness probably wont mind.)

    RAmen.

    • Nate Frein

      She dresses as an internet pirate.

  • Justin Miyundees

    ABSOLUTELY FANTASTIC!!!!!!   MAGNIFICENT!!!  STUPENDOUS!!!!  NOOODLY!!!!!

    • CelticWhisper

       Indeed, a capital idea.

  • TiltedHorizon

    May his noodliness guide and bless Tracy.

    Ramen

  • http://skepticink.com/dangeroustalk Dangerous Talk

    That’s me and my son in the Human Tree of Knowledge photo. Oh, and here is the article I wrote on this yesterday: Pastafarians fight county commissioners for Holiday display: http://t.co/1Ud6F460 

    Atheists are also being encouraged to e-mail Commissioner Farrell and let him know you support both trees - tfarrell@chesco.org or call his office: 610.344.6100

    Farrell is the swing vote. 

    • TiltedHorizon

       Email sent!

      As a fellow PA resident and a member of the C0FSM, I offer my support, encouragement, and a hearty “Arrrrgh” in solidarity.

      Ramen. 

  • cl hanson

    I thought the primary holiday of Pastafarians was Talk Like a Pirate Day.

    • http://boldquestions.wordpress.com/ Ubi Dubium

      Our primary holiday is Friday.  But Holiday is a major celebration too.

  • Ibis3

    I don’t get it. What’s the problem with Santa, candy canes, and a sleigh with gifts? Sounds secular to me. They won, didn’t they? So leave the solstice holiday alone and petition for a tree of knowledge to be put up for Darwin Day or something.

    • http://skepticink.com/dangeroustalk Dangerous Talk

      Nothing’s wrong with Santa, candy canes, etc. We just want an equal place at the table with the Creche and the Menorah.  

      • Barefoot Bree

         But that’s the whole point! The creche and menorah weren’t there!

        This just feels like going too far, to me. By all means, let’s complain loud and long when other religions are displayed but ours are not. But if none of them are, then why are we complaining that our side isn’t either? Santa is as secular as it gets, in this day and age.

        • http://skepticink.com/dangeroustalk Dangerous Talk

          I’m afraid you have your facts wrong. The Creche, menorah, and Christmas Tree not only were there, but are there right now! I’m local to this area (I’m even in the photo); I can tell you for a fact that these things have been there and will be there. Therefore, we should be there too!

        • http://profile.yahoo.com/A37GL7VKR3W6ACSIZPH7EID3LI rlrose63

          According to an article on Mainline Media news:

          “The current policy has been in place since November 2010, replacing a “first-come, first -served” approach to allowing displays between Thanksgiving and New Years’ Day and which allowed the “Tree of Knowledge” to stand alongside the Christian and Jewish symbols. The policy generally permits only county-owned figures – a holiday tree, a crèche, a Menorah, holiday banners, a tribute to veterans, and toy soldiers – on the courthouse at High and Market streets in West Chester. No outside group displays are allowed.”

          So yeah, Christians, Jews, veterans, and toys are represented, but if you aren’t in the first 2 religious groups, you’re out.  Unless you can get the local officials to buy a display to include in their county-owned figures, but good luck with that.

      • Blacksheep

        I think you mean an equal place with the decorated tree. No creche or menorah there.

        • http://skepticink.com/dangeroustalk Dangerous Talk

          Umm, yes there is! 

          • Blacksheep

            Yes, I saw that. Thanks.

            (“Umm”?)

    • Kengi

      This post didn’t make it clear, but in addition to the Santa, candy canes, and a sleigh with gifts there was also a Jesus creche and Menorah on display.

      http://www.examiner.com/article/pastafarians-fight-county-commissioners-for-holiday-display

      • Ibis3

         Ah. Okay. That makes sense now. Fight on!

      • Helanna

        Ah, thanks for explaining, I also was confused.

      • Blacksheep

        So add a bowl of pasta! I think I may actually be a Christian and a pastafarian, if that’s possible.

        • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=705066677 Desiree Bell-Fowlks

          Tithing is either garlic bread or pasta sauce.  LOL.

          • Blacksheep

            i’m in!

  • Mike R.

    On one hand, as one who has been touched by His Noodly Appendage,  this filled me with pride and the Holiday spirit.  On the other,   it seems to me that if the town agreed to limit the display to Santa, that seems to me to be a pretty secular win.  Should we be pushing that hard?  

  • Mark Girard

    Awesome!  Except it was Robert Heinlein who said that one man’s religion is a another man’s belly laugh, not Asimov.

  • http://www.flickr.com/photos/chidy/ chicago dyke

    as a devotee of the Elephant Head Ganesh, the Talking Dolphin Buddha, and the Great Spirit which requires all devout warriors to hang themselves by their nipples in a show of devotion before taking part in the Ghost Dance, and also the few of us left who worship Holy Inanna, Slayer of Mountains, i am offended. 

    deeply offended. 

    all of you heretics must be sold into slavery, immediately. it’s the only truly democratic way. this upstart “noodle” is little more than a poser, imposter, and showman. his priestess should be burned. i applaud the local municipal organization if that vote for that tonight. 

  • Michael Koch

    I’d like mine with some melted Cheddar cheese on top……….

  • Baal

    That was awesome!  brb need to wash the tears of hilarity off.

    • Baal

      Aside from the shear humor, the satire is beyond excellent.  When I hear various religionists stand up and make their various pious mouthings, it’s the same type of bizarre assertions but I’m supposed to take those seriously.

  • A3Kr0n

    I’d like to see a FSM display mocking a Invisible Pink Unicorn display, and the IPU display mocking the FSM display. People could gather, choose sides and have shouting matches using well-worn Christian arguing points.

  • Jennifer

    Priceless.

  • http://skepticink.com/dangeroustalk Dangerous Talk

    Update: Pastafarian Holiday Tree rejected! – http://t.co/sRxZjVJr 

  • kevs

    Those too are right saucy! Aarrr! Too funny. Spat out my pasta!

  • Blacksheep

    Maybe someone can explain to me why it’s necessary to take away something to make everyone happy. Usually the way we satisfy multiple tastes / choices is to offer something for everyone. Christmas happens to fall on December 25th. It was put there out of convenience because that’s when the winter solstice was celebrated. It sort of coincides with Hannukah, but that’s about it for this time of year. So why is it wrong for towns to display the usual trappings of Christmas/solstice/hannukah in public places? In India they close down the streets so everyone can celebrate Holi. The government is not choosing one religion over another, they celebrate Holi in March because THAT’S WHEN IT IS.

    Inventing a religion that is clearly intended to belittle people’s real faiths is pretty transparent, but if that makes Tracy happy, so be it. What are the symbols of her faith?  What exactly are her traditions or symbols that she would like represented? Why does her holiday fall on Christmas, Just by coincidence? Fine, let her put a bowl of pasta out for their “lord” – it’s a free country! 

    • James

      What am I missing?  They have asked only for a display with the other religious displays.  Never did they request that the other displays be “taken away”.  Please, Blacksheep, lets not forget that ALL religions are human invention and that ALL include dogma that belittles others.  Why should this one be any different?     

    • NoCrossNoCrescent

      FYI, it is not a “coincidence” that Christmas is on Dec 25. Many different faiths and traditions celebrated the birth of their gods at winter solstice. Look up “Yule” and “Saturnalia”. And it is VERY wrong for the government to discriminate. The government has to be neutral on matters of religion.

      • Blacksheep

        I said it was a coincidence that “pastafarians” celebrated their holiday on Christmas.

        • NoCrossNoCrescent

          As I pointed out in my comment that is not the first coincidence of that nature.

          • Blacksheep

            yeah, but that wasn’t my point at all… I understand that ANY religion that happens to fall at the end of December would want to celebrate then – that’s what I’m saying…

            • NoCrossNoCrescent

              The point is, they dont happen to fall on any date, they borrow those dates from people before them. Pastafarianism isn’t different.

        • http://boldquestions.wordpress.com/ Ubi Dubium

          We don’t just celebrate it at xmas.  We usually celebrate Holiday starting right after Halloween and continuing until about Superbowl Sunday at least.  It just happens that your xmas celebration falls during our Holiday season.

    • Anon

      It’s fine for towns to put things that are generically ‘christmassy’ up. Like Santa and reindeer etc.

      What is not okay is for things funded by the taxpayer to be distinctly christian. So that means no baby jesus, no crosses, no ‘jesus is the reason for the season’ stuff unless there are other things representing other religions holiday’s. It would be equally as wrong if they put up a menorah and no other decorations.

      As for the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, Tracy did not invent it – it is an actual thing. If you google it I’m sure you will find out all you wish to know about the Flying Spaghetti Monster and His Noodly Appendage.

    • http://friendlyatheist.com Richard Wade

      Inventing a religion that is clearly intended to belittle people’s real faiths…

      That’s what the Pharisees said Jesus was doing. That’s what the Roman Pagans said the Early Christians were doing. That’s what the Roman Catholics said the Protestants were doing. That’s what many Protestant sects said other Protestant sects were doing. That’s what the Catholics and Protestants said the Mormons were doing. That’s what they all say the Scientologists are doing…

      And they all have been correct. Every religion has been invented in order to resist the previous religion’s corrupt power structure, and to gain power for itself.

      • Blacksheep

        Hi Richard,

        I agree with you that all the groups you mentioned had a new, different form of faith that others didn’t like or agree with. And many did so to resist the previous ones power, etc. But none of those groups (in my opinion) made up a religion for the sole purpose of mocking another one, or for the sole purpose of making a point. I think each group believed that they were following something true and purposeful, unlike the pastafarian / flying spaghetti monster thing. (Even if the founder or leader may have created something he believed was false in order to gain followers, the followers themselves were believers).

        But like I said in my post, if that makes her happy, she has every right to follow the pasta, even though I know that her intention is to use humor to make a point., not sincerely follow something she holds dear.

        • allein

          What’s wrong with doing something to make a point?

          • Blacksheep

            Nothing, but certain times and places in life call for respect. The Christian group who pickets military funerals, for example, are trying to make a point when they do so. Do they have a right? I guess so. Are they jackasses? Absolutely.

        • http://friendlyatheist.com Richard Wade

          The people who invented Pastafarianism do believe they are following something true and purposeful, and Tracey does follow something she sincerely holds dear.

          They are purposely following and sincerely holding dear the principle of freedom for everyone.

          You really are missing the point if you think all this FSM stuff is just for the juvenile and sadistic fun of mocking religious people. No, no, no. The satire is one way to break through the hypnotic trance of unentitled privilege that has clouded the minds of so many American Christians. They are utterly narcissistic in their concept of freedom of thought, speech, and religion. They still do not understand that everyone must be free or no one will be free. They still do not grasp the reality that their freedom is in jeopardy when they flirt with mixing religion and state. They are childishly naive to assume that they will be happy with a state-sanctioned and state mandated religion. Dominion will not be the utopia they imagine; it will be a nightmare darker than any of the horrors of the last two millennia.

          Tracey is not making fun of you. She’s protecting your freedom to worship as you choose.

          • Blacksheep

            That’s why I believe she should participate, I hold those freedoms dear as you do. I’m simply acknowledging that it is indeed a satire, which is different from a faith that one bases ones life on. 

          • http://boldquestions.wordpress.com/ Ubi Dubium

            RAmen, Richard, RAmen.

  • Regina

    Tracy should be excommunicated because she was not wearing the Pirate regalia!

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/A37GL7VKR3W6ACSIZPH7EID3LI rlrose63

    First, I do think it’s wrong that they were able to pass a resolution, law, whatever that allows them to discriminate (and that is backed by the Supreme Court?) and then go so far as to say only thing items that the County owns can be displayed.  Wrong, Wrong, Wrong.

    Second, though, I do not see how pushing to have something representing the obviously also made up Flying Spaghetti Monster included will help our cause any.  By all means, fight for representation of atheism, freethinkers, humanists, etc., as they are fighting for a real, legal cause.  I know, I know… why isn’t pastafarianism any more real than Christianity.  I get it!  Really, I do.  I just think it’s counterproductive to the overall cause to introduce something that is easily classified as a joke as a real argument.

    Ramen… and all that.  Just my opinion.  I’ll have to read my Gospel of the Flying Spaghetti Monster for any relevant passages, though.

  • http://twitter.com/ZakAdelman Zak Adelman

    I don’t know how she can say that with a straight face but it was awesome.

  • ImRike

    If they will only put up things that the county owns, why not make a donation to the county of a Pastafarian Holiday decoration. Then they will have to put it up.

  • Riccardo

    I wouldn’t have been able to keep a straight face for half a millisecond if I were her. RAmen

  • Nazani14

    Thanks , I needed the reminder that it’s time to deck my door with my Holiday decor:  a block of uncooked ramen spray-painted gold with pop-pom meatballs bobbing from pipe cleaners, all suspended from a big bow made of beer-themed fabric.  Yes, there really is beer-themed  cotton fabric. 

  • http://www.youtube.com/user/GodVlogger?feature=mhee GodVlogger (on YouTube)

    This is *brilliant*.

    Crucial will be to  maintain that this request is NOT satire or a joke in any way. The Pastafarians must maintain that they are serious  in their request for treating FSM the same as Jesus (and I strongly suggest that if they are kidding none of them should post or blog that).

    As long as the Pastafarians stay serious, then the GOVERNMENT must decide to EITHER treat them the same (win!) or treat FSM as a joke (which would be a clear violation of the US Constitution since it would be the government deciding which religions are valid for US citizens to worship, thus the type of case that would get the local government slammed in a court case).

  • Erryftae

    How are they keeping a strait face?


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