National Post author Tristin Hopper’s story “B.C. ‘pastafarian’ fights for a driver’s license, and religious freedom, with a spaghetti colander on his head”, National Post, October 08, 2014 (http://goo.gl/OIQxsl) is a brief description of a religious movement involving freedom of religious expression within British Columbia. It entails one man’s fight for freedom by testing the limits of the province’s official licensing agency, the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia (ICBC). A former student of Philosophy at the Simon Fraser University, Obi Canuel is the famous Surrey resident known for his attempt in obtaining his picture I.D. while wearing a spaghetti colander on his head, as per his religious beliefs and practice. Unlike the more globally recognized religious attire such as the turban or hijab, the colander is seen by many as religious mockery rather than for the political statement or ideology it represents, a common criticism of any new religious movement, and seemingly Mr. Canuel’s intented argument.
It seems clear that Mr. Canuel is trying to show that his religion is no different than other religions in that no matter how ridiculous his beliefs appear to others, especially to the political systems running Canada where free speech and religious belief are legal rights, his beliefs are to be taken as serious as the next persons’. Drawing on another example where religious freedom collides with public law and safety is the Sikh’ person who demanded they be allowed to carry a sacrificial dagger on board a public flight because it is their religious right to do so. Other citizens, religious or not, are well aware of the prohibition of anything remotely sharp such as a nail file to be carried on board due to the safety of everyone, so why is it that religious freedoms are allowed to contradict public safety laws and regulations at all? And furthermore, only if said religion is internationally recognized and essentially accepted by the majority may it bend the rules, as is apparent from Mr. Canuel’s tribulations.
One would agree that the system is obviously flawed, so what should the citizens of a country devoted to religious diversity do to make logical and fair sense of new religions, and old ones, when it comes to public safety or law? One could argue that people like Mr. Canuel have the right idea in starting a reform in the area of religion and public policies, and at the very least praise him for starting the conversation.