In De Wilde v The Netherlands  ECHR No 9476/19, which we discussed here, Ms De Wilde, a Pastafarian, had applied for a new driving licence and a new identity card with a picture of her wearing a colander on her head. When the domestic authorities refused her request, she took the matter to Strasbourg – where the ECtHR was equally unsympathetic, concluding that Pastafarianism was not a “religion” or “belief” within the meaning of Article 9, that Article 9 could not apply to the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster or its followers, and that the complaint was incompatible ratione materiae with the provisions of the Convention.
In Alm, the Fourth Section noted that the general principles relevant to the issue had been summarised in De Wilde, where the Court had held that, though the concept of “religion or belief” in the sense of being protected by Article 9 had to be interpreted broadly, that did not mean that all opinions or convictions were to be regarded as such, and that Pastafarianism was not to be regarded as a “religion or belief” within the meaning of Article 9 . As regards the present case, the Court saw no reason to hold otherwise , and the complaint under Article 9 was incompatible ratione materiae with the provisions of the Convention within the meaning of Article 35(3).
The Court took a similar line in Sager in relation to the complaint under Article 9. As to the additional complaints under Article 11, alone and in conjunction with Articles 9 and 14, the Court rejected the applicants’ claim to have been prevented from freely associating as a religious community and to have been discriminated against as a non-confessional ideology (Weltanschauung) because the benefits of that status were only granted to “religious” communities. The Court reiterated that there was no right under Article 11 for associations to have a specific legal status – and the applicants had, in fact, successfully established an association under Austrian law in 2015 .
It was true that, where a state party had created a status for religious communities entailing specific privileges, it had to ensure that religious groups had a fair opportunity to apply for that status and that the criteria were applied in a non-discriminatory manner. However, because Pastafarianism did not qualify as a “religion” within the meaning of the Court’s case‑law, the right to the status of a religious community could not be derived from Article 11 of the Convention. It followed that the complaint was manifestly ill‑founded and the Court rejected it in accordance with Article 35(3)(a) and 35(4) of the Convention . The complaint was manifestly ill-founded .
- Derk Venema (legal academic, Netherlands) and Niko Alm (journalist and former MP, Austria), ‘Judging the Flying Spaghetti Monster’, The Freethinker 8 July 2022.
- Mienke de Wilde (Pastafarian and law PhD student) and Paul Cliteur (legal academic), ‘The secular religion of the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster’, The Freethinker 27 July 2022.
- Emma Park, ‘Flying spaghetti monsters’, New Humanist 21 October 2022.
- Niko Alm, ‘Religious Privilege 2 : 0 Pastafarians’, The Freethinker 16 December 2022.