from the ramen dept
You likely already know the story of the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster. If you don't, go read up on it, because it's a delightful example of how a cause can be fought with humor and derision without taking itself too seriously. The admittedly silly non-organization is actually quite an important story for secular government and how it must treat free speech in the context of religious exemptions offered to citizens. Not all governments do this well, as you may recall the story of Australian authorities briefly confiscating a man's legally-owned firearms after he insisted on wearing a pasta strainer on his head for his government ID photo.
Well, reader dave blevins writes about the story of a woman in Massachusetts who made a similar request, and the government managed to allow her to wear the strainer without instigating any such backlash.
A woman who belongs to the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster is allowed to wear a pasta strainer on her head in her driver's license photo due to religious beliefs, the AP reports. Lowell, Mass., resident Lindsay Miller says wearing the colander allows her to express her beliefs, like other religions are allowed to do, according to AP.The silliness here is clear, but there is also an important point to be made: a government that promotes free speech as one of its values must allow mockery and criticism of the very things that people may hold most dear. I think that's going to become only more important in the days ahead, given terror attacks, given violence by white supremicists against innocent victims, given the easy divisions that can be created by some of the hardships we face. I don't want to aggrandize this too much, but criticism, reflection, doubt and humor can't become rare currency in the times ahead, and it's great to see any examples of government willing to tolerate, if not actively promote, that kind of speech.
So, while this example may be silly in nature, we ought keep in mind that conversation is, in the end, all we have as a weapon to keep humanity moving forward. And that is going to, at times, include speech that we may not agree with.