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Yorktown

(2,884 posts)
Sun May 31, 2015, 10:36 AM May 2015

Pastafarian Inmate Sues Prison



Nebraska prisoner Stephen Cavanaugh is suing over the right to pursue his faith in the Flying Spaghetti Monster.

Specifically he wants:
* to dress in religious garments — that is, full pirate regalia — and,
* to take part in weekly meetings with others who hold similar beliefs

He’s also asking for $5 Million in damages related to “deep emotional, psychological, and spiritual pain resulting from being allowed to practice my religion, and Mr. Bartlet [Religious Coordinator, Nebraska State Pen]‘s repeated mocking and insulting of my faith.”

I’m skeptical of anyone asking for money, and my immediate thought was that this is a frivolous lawsuit. But after reading the court documents and talking with people in the know, I feel that here is a troubled guy who is legitimately trying to pursue his faith and, only after being stymied by the in-house prison channels, was forced to take the fight to the courts. Yes the dollar amount he’s asking for is exorbitant (and in my view, hurts his case), but the underlying complaint feels legitimate to me.

One thing I found alarming: in the court docs there’s a claim by prison officials that, when looking into Cavanaugh’s religion, they found “the founder of Pastafarianism stated that it was a parody of religion”, and used this as a reason to deny Cavanaugh his requests for religious garments and group prayer.

They may or may not be referring to me, I don’t know — but I don’t think I’ve ever spoken to any Nebraskan prison officials, and if I did I wouldn’t have used those words.

For the record, I don’t believe Pastafarianism is a parody.

What I say, sometimes, is that some number of Pastafarians do not believe in a literal Flying Spaghetti Monster or our Creation story. And that is perfectly fine — it’s a common thing even in mainstream religion to be skeptical of scripture. The distinction is that in FSM, the culture is more accepting of people who are skeptical-minded, while in many mainstream religions, doubt is seen as an affront to the Dogmatic Truth.

My point is that there are doubters in religion in general, simply because religious scripture can be full of nonsense. You wouldn’t say Christianity is a parody just because some members don’t buy the part about the world being created in 7 days and the talking snake, etc.

Religion is more than a collection of beliefs and rituals, it’s a way to form community and a framework to make sense of our place in the universe. And on this level, I think Prison officials did Cavanaugh a disservice in not allowing him to pursue his faith. I mean, he wasn’t asking for that much. He wanted to buy a pirate costume with his own money and hang out with some other Pastafarians once a week.

One last point I’d like to make: lets consider that maybe the prison officials are simply unenlightened about the FSM. Maybe this is just a misunderstanding, rather than outright religious persecution. I suspect that Mr. Cavanaugh may be willing to call of the fight if the prison officials would relent and allow him to pursue his faith.

Here are the best articles I’ve found, if you’d like to keep reading about Cavanaugh’s case:

[1] Great article (and spectacular title) by ThinkProgress about the Cavanaugh lawsuit — Inmate Sues Prison Claiming His Religious Liberty Entitles Him To Dress Like A Pirate
[2] The raw court documents (PDF)
[3] Here’s an article where some lawyers are discussing whether the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster may have some influence in rethinking the RLUIPA (religion in prison) laws
32 replies = new reply since forum marked as read
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Pastafarian Inmate Sues Prison (Original Post) Yorktown May 2015 OP
Unless he's in solitary, I see no reason he can't have 'weekly religious meetings', if indeed there Erich Bloodaxe BSN May 2015 #1
Don't forget the colanders LiberalEsto May 2015 #2
Infidel!!! Yorktown May 2015 #7
When I was ordained as bishop, I assumed the holy name, Bishop Cappolini. Hoppy May 2015 #3
Interesting. hrmjustin May 2015 #4
I hope he gets the 5 mil Politicalboi May 2015 #5
Not tongs! They'll damage the pasta Panich52 May 2015 #6
Even if you are the founder of pastafarianism, some links would help muriel_volestrangler Jun 2015 #8
Blessed with pasta be they who ask for links Yorktown Jun 2015 #9
He's in for Attempted Assult in the First Degree and Use of a Deadly Weapon to Commit a Felony. rug Jun 2015 #10
And? Yorktown Jun 2015 #11
He just blew his chance for parole. rug Jun 2015 #12
And? Yorktown Jun 2015 #13
And he's an idiot. rug Jun 2015 #14
Not more than millions of believers Yorktown Jun 2015 #15
You really don't understand what a false dichotomy is, do you? rug Jun 2015 #18
I perfectly do, thank you. Yorktown Jun 2015 #20
The current price of standard grade green tea is $25m per ton from yixing tea co. AtheistCrusader Jun 2015 #16
And standard grade tea drinkers are sing for the right to wear pirate costumes in prison. rug Jun 2015 #17
They are not. However, one can presume that a prisoner suing over anything AtheistCrusader Jun 2015 #19
One of the issues in parole is whether a given inmate is a sociopath who can be safely be released. rug Jun 2015 #21
Has anyone been ruled a sociopath for being a pastafarian? AtheistCrusader Jun 2015 #22
Not yet. But many have been denied parole for demonstrating they can not conform inside a prison. rug Jun 2015 #23
So, just speculating then. AtheistCrusader Jun 2015 #24
Far from it. rug Jun 2015 #26
The lawsuit is from back in October. I count six others in play. AtheistCrusader Jun 2015 #28
His faith seems fully unrelated to his sincerity. rug Jun 2015 #30
Agreed. AtheistCrusader Jun 2015 #31
Is this the same Stephen Cavanaugh sentenced in 2013 for his 2012 hatchet attacks? struggle4progress Jun 2015 #25
Indeed it is. rug Jun 2015 #27
His heart seems set on a career in law struggle4progress Jun 2015 #32
Many people named Stephen Cavanaugh seem to be filing suits in Nebraska struggle4progress Jun 2015 #29

Erich Bloodaxe BSN

(14,733 posts)
1. Unless he's in solitary, I see no reason he can't have 'weekly religious meetings', if indeed there
Sun May 31, 2015, 10:43 AM
May 2015

are other Pastafarians to meet with in there. Do other prisoners get to wear religious apparel there? Are there folks wandering around in skullcaps, wearing crosses, whatever? 'Full regalia' is tricky, because from what I've seen, most prisons have uniforms, and don't take kindly to any prisoner wearing anything else.

 

Yorktown

(2,884 posts)
7. Infidel!!!
Sun May 31, 2015, 09:38 PM
May 2015

Colanders are not worn with full pirate regalia.

It's one or the other. Full pirate costume is more formal,

A colander being like an everyday skullcap.


Let's show respect for religions when they are mine, please.

 

Hoppy

(3,595 posts)
3. When I was ordained as bishop, I assumed the holy name, Bishop Cappolini.
Sun May 31, 2015, 11:14 AM
May 2015

By flock presented me with a cheese grater to flake hard, Parmesan cheese. Now, if I were to be sentenced to prison for tax evasion, I would be mighty pissed if I couldn't walk around with my sacred utensil.

 

Politicalboi

(15,189 posts)
5. I hope he gets the 5 mil
Sun May 31, 2015, 12:24 PM
May 2015

But he needs to ask for more IMO. If this involved a "christian" they'd ask for a lot more money and their silly religion is just as valued as Pastafarianism.

The Pastafarianism should ask the jail to make everyone go to at least one of their get togethers like they do for the christians so that other Pastafarian followers would be able to choose another religion other than christian. And when it comes for their parole meetings, their god needs to be looked at the same way if they find Pasta.

5 Commandments of Pasta:

1. Thou shall NEVER use Ragu

2. Thou shall never boil longer than 8 minutes

3. Thou shall always use tongs when preparing pasta

4. Thou shall never covet spaghetti sauce which is from thy neighbor

5. Thou shall always honor peppers and onions.

Panich52

(5,829 posts)
6. Not tongs! They'll damage the pasta
Sun May 31, 2015, 01:06 PM
May 2015

Use that spoon-like thing w/ 'fingers' on the edges. Much more gentle. And efficient.

Parody or not, Pastafarianism more or less recognized and religious freedom must apply to all.

muriel_volestrangler

(100,987 posts)
8. Even if you are the founder of pastafarianism, some links would help
Mon Jun 1, 2015, 05:55 AM
Jun 2015

for those last articles. If you're quoting someone else's article in the OP, a link to that would help too.

 

Yorktown

(2,884 posts)
11. And?
Mon Jun 1, 2015, 10:15 AM
Jun 2015

People rarely go to prison for nothing.


btw, why 'finding god' should be a circumstance helping with the parole board is a mystery.

Believing in imaginary creatures in the sky should not be considered something positive.

At least, this guy isn't faking it like so many who 'found' yeshua or muhamad in prison.

 

Yorktown

(2,884 posts)
13. And?
Mon Jun 1, 2015, 10:24 AM
Jun 2015

His stand for the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster shows backbone.

Something in short supply these days, when so many will grovel at any 'hurt' felt by believers.

 

Yorktown

(2,884 posts)
15. Not more than millions of believers
Mon Jun 1, 2015, 10:30 AM
Jun 2015

The rest of his personality aside (which I won't research)

he, at least, has demonstrated a functioning brain and backbone.

AtheistCrusader

(33,982 posts)
19. They are not. However, one can presume that a prisoner suing over anything
Mon Jun 1, 2015, 10:39 AM
Jun 2015

Is a criminal with some sort of bad thing they did to end up in prison, so, so what?

Your comment on the crime he was sentenced for is fully unrelated to the issue.

 

rug

(82,333 posts)
21. One of the issues in parole is whether a given inmate is a sociopath who can be safely be released.
Mon Jun 1, 2015, 10:48 AM
Jun 2015

So far, no one has been denied parole for drinking standargd grade green tea.

 

rug

(82,333 posts)
23. Not yet. But many have been denied parole for demonstrating they can not conform inside a prison.
Mon Jun 1, 2015, 11:38 AM
Jun 2015
 

rug

(82,333 posts)
26. Far from it.
Mon Jun 1, 2015, 12:20 PM
Jun 2015

If he succeeds, which he won't, what do you think will happen when he shows up to the parole board with a parrot on his shoulder?

If his suit is tossed, which it will, he will be pegged as a malcontent filing frivolous lawsuits.

The only speculaiton I have is what his disciplinary record looks like since his incarceration.

struggle4progress

(117,782 posts)
25. Is this the same Stephen Cavanaugh sentenced in 2013 for his 2012 hatchet attacks?
Mon Jun 1, 2015, 12:18 PM
Jun 2015

Man sentenced to prison for threats with hatchet
Posted: Tuesday, September 3, 2013 10:52 pm
By Sarah Schulz
... Stephen W. Cavanaugh, 22, was sentenced to two to four years in prison for attempted first-degree assault for a July 29, 2012, incident involving Stephen Stangler and one to two years in prison for using a hatchet to commit the attempted assault ... He was also sentenced to two to four years in prison for attempted first-degree assault for the same incident involving Kyle Russell and one to two years in prison for using a hatchet to commit that crime ... The charges were filed after Stangler; his wife, Maile Stangler; and Russell reported that Cavanaugh came to the Stanglers’ home at about 1:30 a.m. for an arranged meeting, according to Grand Island police. The Stanglers each had protection orders against Cavanaugh, and he had one against Stephen Stangler. When Cavanaugh arrived at the Stanglers’ home, he made threats and chased Stephen Stangler and Russell around with the hatchet, according to police ... Cavanaugh was sentenced in Hall County District Court on Aug. 29 and was given 416 days credit for the time he has served in jail pending the outcome of the case.
http://www.theindependent.com/news/local/man-sentenced-to-prison-for-threats-with-hatchet/article_30dd795a-1515-11e3-8d2a-0019bb2963f4.html

Judge: State inmates not entitled to minimum wage
October 30, 2014 4:00 pm
By MARGERY A. BECK / The Associated Press2
... Stephen Cavanaugh, 23, sued several state prison officials, saying that over the past year, he has been assigned to work as a food server, window washer and prison yard maintenance worker, with his work time varying between six hours and eight hours a day for five to seven days a week. Cavanaugh, who represented himself in the lawsuit, said he was paid between $1.21 and $2.25 a day for the work ... But U.S. District Judge Laurie Smith Camp dismissed the lawsuit Wednesday, saying that while state law sets minimum wage at $7.25 an hour, another state law specifically allows the director of the state Department of Correctional Services to make rules governing the hours prisoners work and how much they're paid ... Cavanaugh was sentenced in 2013 to at least six years in prison after being found guilty of two counts of attempted first-degree assault and two counts of use of deadly weapon. Police say he threatened two Grand Island men with a hatchet in July 2012 ...
http://journalstar.com/news/local/911/judge-state-inmates-not-entitled-to-minimum-wage/article_267d2ce6-ec8d-5afc-9cf9-d508ba6d44da.html

Inmate wants to worship Flying Spaghetti Monster
September 12, 2014 6:00 am
... Stephen Cavanaugh, 23, filed the federal civil rights lawsuit against the Department of Correctional Services and Nebraska State Penitentiary officials, saying penitentiary staff repeatedly discriminated against him by not allowing him the right to meet for worship services and classes, or to wear religious clothing and pendants ...
By RILEY JOHNSON | LINCOLN JOURNAL STAR
http://journalstar.com/news/local/911/inmate-wants-to-worship-flying-spaghetti-monster/article_a5c2063d-f23b-5fc6-a91c-90cba2e9b9a5.html

 

rug

(82,333 posts)
27. Indeed it is.
Mon Jun 1, 2015, 12:21 PM
Jun 2015

I'm glad to see he's found religion in prison and is now ready to embark on a productive and meaningful life.

struggle4progress

(117,782 posts)
32. His heart seems set on a career in law
Mon Jun 1, 2015, 01:58 PM
Jun 2015

but I suppose he'll need to overcome the usual bigotry against people who swing axes at others

struggle4progress

(117,782 posts)
29. Many people named Stephen Cavanaugh seem to be filing suits in Nebraska
Mon Jun 1, 2015, 12:33 PM
Jun 2015

In addition to the heroic attempt to seek recognition of the ancient Pastafarian community, there has been a lawsuit seeking minimum wage for prisoners. There's also this:

Former county inmate seeking new policy and $250,350
Posted on Jan 16, 2015
by Tracy Overstreet
A former Hall County inmate is suing Hall County for $250,000 in damages and $350 in court costs. Stephen Cavanaugh is also requesting a change in Hall County Jail policy, and he wants a judge’s order that he never be housed again in the Hall County Jail. “The essence of the complaint is that he doesn’t like the way his complaints in Hall County Jail have been handled,” Hall County Attorney Jack Zitterkopf told the Hall County Board of Supervisors this week ... Zitterkopf told the Hall County board that the county’s insurance carrier, the Nebraska Intergovernmental Risk Management Agency (NIRMA), has agreed to represent the county on the monetary issues in the lawsuit ...
http://www.theindependent.com/crimes/news/former-county-inmate-seeking-new-policy-and/article_0a8a52e6-9df4-11e4-9d6d-cf1ef0f98de1.html

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