John Hamill from The Free Thought Prophet Podcast has long challenged religious traditions in Ireland. Last year, he pointed out the problems with a survey asking for kids’ religions, as if they’re all old enough to have adopted one. He also challenged a public policy that favored Catholics by saying he was a Pastafarian entitled to the same perks.
In fact, he went so far as to try and register the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster as a religious entity, but the government rejected his application, saying it was a “parody.” His sincerely held beliefs didn’t matter to them.
But maybe none of that matters because he’s a member of a very legitimate religion now. It’s a new one! But the Irish government still won’t acknowledge the religion — this time for new reasons that are equally baffling.
The religion in this case is the Syncretic Jesus Christ Church. As a member, Hamill could solemnize marriages. All he needs is a stamp of approval from the Irish government.
What is that religion? It’s a group of people who believe in the moral teachings of Jesus Christ while rejecting both the supernatural stuff and His actual existence.
Hamill explained all that in his application, even noting how this wasn’t a parody religion at all; he was heavily influenced by an atheist author and had a come-to-Jesus moment. Or the opposite of that. But he was rejected this time as well.
The government admitted this would be a legitimate religion if someone else submitted the form… but they were still saying no to him because he wasn’t allowed to convert from Pastafarianism to this new Christian denomination.
They dismissed his application as “vexatious,” meaning it wasn’t done in good faith.
I repeat: They’re not doubting his sincerity. They’re not doubting the religion itself. They’re doubting his conversion story.
… the Registrar General rejected our application as he deemed it to be “vexatious”. That is, he considered it illegitimate for us to change our beliefs about religion in order to accept the hermeneutics of Dr Price, because one of us had previously been associated with the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster. This Pastafarian association is entirely accurate and was never denied, but the decision of the Registrar General was not that Pastafarians are unacceptable. Rather, he decided that it was unacceptable for a Pastafarian to accept the teachings of Jesus Christ.
Why is the government allowed to determine who’s a true believer and who isn’t? If Hamill insists he belongs to this new faith — and it’s one plenty of atheists might join as well — why is the government saying his conversion isn’t valid?
Hamill says this is a violation of Article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which says “Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief and freedom.”
He’s right, of course. People change their religious beliefs all the time. But the Irish government seems to think they have the right to say which conversions count. It’s absurd.
Hamill appealed the initial decision, but he was rebuffed once again. His only option now is a legal challenge that’s far too expensive to pursue. That means all he can do is tell his story and hope it leads to some change.
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