A Madison man has won the right to wear a pasta strainer on his head for his Wisconsin driver's license photo.
Madison farmer Michael Schumacher says his license is set to expire in March. He went to the Wisconsin DMV in late January to have it renewed. When it came time to take his picture, supervisors asked him to take off his pasta strainer, because they didn't recognize it as a religious head dress.
"I felt bullied. I felt like I was being told I was in the wrong," Schumacher told our sister station 27 News in Madison in an exclusive interview.
Schumacher refused and later consulted with Evansille attorney Derek Allen. He decided to take up Schumacher's case and sent the WisDOT a letter illustrating previous precedent and the first amendment.
"In my mind his right to freely exercise his religion wasn't being recognized by the DMV," Allen says.
Schumacher says he belongs to a growing international religion called The Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster. The organization is seen as both an actual religion and a satire that both challenges and reinforces religious freedom.
Earlier this month, Netherlands recognized it as an official religion and last December they were granted the right to perform marriages in New Zealand, according to the group's website.
In three other states, as well as New Zealand and Australia, members or "Pastafarians" were granted the right to wear the strainer in their driver's license photo.
"It's our religious head dress. We wear it in various ceremonies," Schumacher explains. "This relates to our faith, because the giant flying spaghetti monster was boiled alive for our sins and we wear this in representation of that sacrifice."
Two weeks after receiving the letter from Schumacher's attorney, WisDOT responded with this statement.
The agency decided to let Schumacher wear the strainer as long as it doesn't cover up his face.
Schumacher and his attorney agreed the government's recognition of his faith was not just a personal victory, but one for all religions, free to express themselves and their faith.
"If it gets someone to know a part of the first amendment that they didn't know before, I think it's ultimately a good thing," Allen says.