November 2019 Church & State Magazine | People & Events

Officials in a region of Alaska heard an unusual opening invocation during their Sept. 17 meeting: It was offered by a “Pastafarian” wearing a spaghetti strainer on his head.

The unconventional prayer before the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly in Homer came about thanks to a 2018 ruling from the Alaska Supreme Court. Borough officials approved a policy in 2016 stating that volunteers seeking to deliver invocations before meetings had to belong to houses of worship that had a presence in the Kenai area. The Alaska high court struck down the policy as unconstitutional, and in response, Kenai officials voted to allow anyone to offer an invocation.

Barrett Fletcher, the Pastafarian pastor, noted that some members of the assembly “seem to feel they can’t do the work without being overseen by a higher authority.” Therefore, he added, “I’m called to invoke the power of the true inebriated creator of the universe, the drunken tolerater of the all lesser and more recent gods, and maintainer of gravity here on earth. May the great Flying Spaghetti Monster rouse himself from his stupor and let his noodly appendages ground each assembly member in their seats.”

He concluded by calling on the Flying Spaghetti Monster to give assembly members “satisfaction in the perception of accomplishment and allow them true relaxation and an ample supply of their favorite beverage at the end of this evening’s work.”

The Associated Press (AP) reported that some people didn’t take well to the invocation. Most people refused to stand, and men kept their hats on.

The Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster was launched in 2005 as a satirical response to efforts to curb the teaching of evolution in Kansas’s public schools. Bobby Henderson, an Oregon student of physics and the church’s founder, argued that if the Christian fundamentalist version of creation was going to be taught in the state’s public schools, his church’s belief – that a giant flying wad of spaghetti created the world – should be taught as well.

The church took off, and adherents, who often call themselves “Pastafarians,” began sporting colanders as headgear. Some even tried to get an official driver’s license photo of themselves wearing the strainers. In New Zealand, church officials have won the right to officiate at weddings; but in America, its status is evolving. One federal court has ruled that the church is satirical and not a genuine religion.

Fletcher told the Homer News that he created a local branch of the church to protest official prayers before government meetings.

“I think you just pound the gavel and call the meeting to order,” he said. Fletcher also said he hoped the controversy would lead the assembly to drop the opening prayers, but so far the members have not decided to do that.

Fletcher’s prayer was not the first one to spark controversy. In June, Iris Fontana, a member of the Satanic Temple, offered an invocation that closed with the words “Hail, Satan!” The AP reported that about a dozen people walked out.