FSMism is not a "religion" within the meaning of the relevant federal statutes and constitutional jurisprudence. It is, rather, a parody, intended to advance an argument about science, the evolution of life, and the place of religion in public education.Now, I actually think the judge is right. I, too, believe that Pastafarianism is a parody and not a real religion. But here's the thing: what I believe shouldn't matter, and what the judge believes shouldn't matter. The only thing that should matter is what Cavanaugh believes, and the only person in a position to judge that is Cavanaugh.
The problem with trying to impose any objective standard on what is and is not a legitimate religion is that people actually believe all kinds of crazy shit. Some people worship aliens. Some people believe that humans are infested by immortal ghosts. Some people believe that the Word of God was literally pulled out of a hat. Some people worship many gods and some people worship none. Some people believe that God requires us to love one another and some people believe that God requires us to kill one another (and some people believe that these two imperatives are in no way incompatible).
This is the problem with trying to judge religion: what standard do you apply? Once you rule out religions that seem like parodies, where do you stop? Is satanism a parody? How about the Church of Reality? Or the Church of Spiritual Humanism, of which your humble correspondent is a card-carrying member? How about the Church of Happy Science? (No, I am not making that up. There is actually a branch in my neighborhood.) Is Unitarianism-Universalism (not to be confused with Unitarianism) not a legitimate faith because they don't seem to have any idea what they believe?
The only possible answer that does not put you on the express train to religious tyranny is that you have to accept everyone at their word for what they believe, even if those beliefs seem completely ridiculous to you. Frankly, the idea that Jesus is God (or even that there is a God or even a god) seems completely ridiculous to me. But I will nonetheless fight to the death for your right to believe it if you want to.
And I will fight to the death for Steven Cavanaugh's right to believe in the Flying Spaghetti monster, not because I think it's a legitimate faith, but because that is not or me to decide. My freedom to believe things that you find ridiculous can only be protected by my willingness to let you believe things that I find ridiculous free from government interference.
That is why I am calling for the establishment of a legal defense fund for Stephen Cavanaugh. We need to get this disastrous ruling overturned, not for Steven's sake or for the sake of the Flying Spaghetti monster, but for all of us. The idea that the government gets to decide for us what we may or may not believe must not be allowed to stand.