Driving licences, colanders and Pastafarians: De Wilde

In De Wilde v The Netherlands [2021] ECHR No 9476/19, Ms De Wilde, a Pastafarian, had applied unsuccessfully for a new driving licence and a new identity card with a picture of her wearing a colander on her head. She argued that, though under no constraint to do so, as a strict Pastafarian she genuinely saw the wearing of a colander as a religious requirement – and she was prepared to suffer inconvenience, censure and ridicule to comply with it. She submitted evidence such as photographs to prove that, unlike other less strict Pastafarians, she did, in fact, wear a colander at all times [3-6]. Her applications for judicial review of the authorities’ refusals were unsuccessful [8-19].

Before the ECtHR, she complained under Article 9 that the requirement of official recognition of a religious or philosophical conviction had no legal basis in domestic law. She also complained, under Article 14 taken together with Article 9, that such a requirement was imposed only on Pastafarians as compared to followers of other religions [42]. In the alternative, she complained under Article 9 that the domestic courts had misapplied the standards developed by the ECtHR and that no account had been taken of her forum internum and that, under Article 14 taken together with Article 9, Pastafarianism had been disqualified as a religion on grounds not applied to other religions in similar situations [43].

The Court pointed out that, although the concept of “religion or belief” in the sense of being protected by Article 9 had to be interpreted broadly, the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion applied only to those views that attained a certain level of cogency, seriousness, cohesion and importance [51]. The Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster had been intended as a satire on the Intelligent Design movement – as admitted in one of its own “canonical” texts [53], as follows:

“you cannot disprove a Flying Spaghetti Monster created the universe and life and therefore by the ID proponents’ logic, it’s a plausible idea as well. It’s meant to be as ridiculous as possible to demonstrate the flaw in this logic, plus a little humor goes a long way in any argument” (quoted in [30]).

The Court did not consider Pastafarianism to be a “religion” or “belief” within the meaning of Article 9 [54], Article 9 could not apply to the Church or its followers [55] and the complaint was incompatible ratione materiae with the provisions of the Convention [56]. Given that the complaint did not fall within the scope of Article 9, it followed that no question could arise under Article 14 taken together with Article 9 [59].

The Court, unanimously, declared the application inadmissible.

Cite this article as: Frank Cranmer, "Driving licences, colanders and Pastafarians: De Wilde" in Law & Religion UK, 17 January 2022, https://lawandreligionuk.com/2022/01/17/driving-licences-colanders-and-pastafarians-de-wilde/

8 thoughts on “Driving licences, colanders and Pastafarians: De Wilde

  1. Although it is worth noting that an Austrian driver, Nico Alm, was able to obtain a driving licence with a photo showing him wearing the required Pastafarian head covering in 2011. Apparently, this was because the mandatory photo requires only that the full face be visible. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-14135523. Mr Ian Harris had less success with the DVLA in 2015, which held to its previous decision that the required photo will be rejected if a head covering is worn, unless it’s worn for medical or religious reasons.

    • There’ve been quite a few cases on Pastafarians and colanders, with varying outcomes. I thought it was worth noting this one because it was a judgment of the ECtHR.

    • I note that the 2011 BBC report about Nico Alm states: “After receiving his application the Austrian authorities had required him to obtain a doctor’s certificate that he was “psychologically fit” to drive.”!

  2. Pingback: Religion news 19 January 2022 - Religion Media Centre

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