Utah Pastafarian Challenges Religious Freedom Law

Asia Lemmon, a former porn star, says she faced only brief resistance when she went to the Utah Department of Motor Vehicles on September 29 to have her license renewed wearing a colander on her head. Lemmon, whose real name Jessica Steinhauser appears on her driver’s license, is a member of the satirical Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster. Members of the church are known as Pastafarians. The church began in 2005 as a protest against the teaching of intelligent design in Kansas schools. According to USA Today, Lemmon is the fourth person in the U.S. and the first in Utah to be allowed to wear a pasta strainer in an official photo.

In an interview with ABC News, Nannette Rolfe, the director of Utah’s Driver License Division, said about a dozen Pastafarian’s have had their driver’s license photos taken with a similar colander or pasta strainer on their head in the past few years.

“As long as we can get a visual of the face, we’re fine if they choose to wear the headgear,” she said.

Hats and headgear are not allowed for official photos unless they are worn for religious reasons, Rolfe said. After the first few Pastafarians came into the state driver’s license offices two years ago, state officials determined the church is a recognized religion and doesn’t require any special paperwork. The Inquisitr previously reported on the church’s defense of their religious freedoms.

Lemmon said her experience getting her photo taken was “surprisingly very, very easy.” She said she went into the Utah Department of Motor Vehicles office in Hurricane, Utah, and when it was time to have her photo taken, she placed the colander on her head. She was met with opposition but produced documentation on her religious freedoms, as a Pastafarian, and the employees took the photo without further incident. USA Today reports her motivation was to make a statement.

“I’ve always been a proud atheist, and I feel comfortable doing that even here,” she said. “Even though it’s really conservative here, everyone has always been really sweet about (my religious views).”

About two-thirds of Utah’s residents are Mormons and it is home to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Bobby Henderson, founder of the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, said he believed Asia’s motives were good-natured and was pleased with Utah’s sense of humor in allowing Pastafarian’s to exercise their freedom of religion.

“We are not anti-religion,” Henderson states on his website. “We are anti-crazy nonsense done in the name of religion. There is a big difference. Our ideal is to scrutinize ideas and actions but ignore general labels.”