On December 10, the New Zealand Gazette, which publishes official notices for the government, posted Marriage Notice No. 22, which declared the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster “an approved organization for the purpose of the Marriage Act 1955.” With this legal acceptance, per Marriage Act 1955, the Church is now able to register celebrants to officiate marriages.
You could be forgiven for thinking this is all a grand joke, and the Pastafarians — as the Church’s members call themselves — would probably laugh too.
The Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster has its roots in satire and a domestic debate in the United States. A 24-year old student named Bobby Henderson wrote a letter to the Kansas State Board of Education which, in 2005, was holding hearings on changing the way evolution was taught in public schools in Kansas, specifically wanting to introduce “intelligent design” to the curriculum. “Intelligent design” contends that an intelligent being — God — is behind the process of evolution, not natural selection. Henderson’s letter, in excellent satirical form, exposed criticisms many had regarding the ambiguities of “intelligent design”:
Let us remember that there are multiple theories of Intelligent Design. I and many others around the world are of the strong belief that the universe was created by a Flying Spaghetti Monster. It was He who created all that we see and all that we feel. We feel strongly that the overwhelming scientific evidence pointing towards evolutionary processes is nothing but a coincidence, put in place by Him.
Needless to say, his letter kicked off a global movement of sorts. Radio New Zealand interviewed a Pastafarian — referred to as the “chief office bearer, or Top Ramen” — about the recent approval. When asked if there was a serious side to Pastafarianism, the Ramen replied, “We’re not just satirical. We’re for those people who perhaps want a community but their beliefs don’t fall in line with any of those other religions. And our religion is far more humorous. We do not try to take ourselves or any other religion too seriously. We do believe that religion and science can be combined.”
Jeff Montgomery, the Registrar-General responsible for approving the group’s request to be allowed to nominate celebrants, said that his role was to enact the Marriage Act. In Marriage Act 1955, the requirements to approval are fairly simple:
If the Registrar-General is satisfied that the principal object or one of the principal objects of the organization is to uphold or promote religious beliefs or philosophical or humanitarian convictions, he or she may by notice in the Gazette declare the organization to be an approved organization.
Montgomery said this particular case was “one of the more unusual ones” he’s seen. In another interview with Stuff.co.nz he said, “As registrar-general it is my role to apply the relevant legislation. In this case, my decision can only be based on whether the organization upholds or promotes religious beliefs, or philosophical or humanitarian convictions… No judgment is made on the validity of those beliefs or convictions.”
Membership in the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster is not recognized on New Zealand’s census, but as the Ramen said “…our people do like to get married, some of them several times… We like to have baptisms and babies and celebrations and divorces, and it’s always nice to have official marriage celebrants to preside over these celebrations.”