Australia Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster loses bid for legal recognition as incorporated entity
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The Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster will remain in the realms of satire, after an attempt to have its Australian wing formally recognised was rejected by a South Australian legal authority on the grounds that the purported religion is nothing more than a "hoax".
Adelaide woman Tanya Watkins, a self-described "captain" of the church and adherent of its creed of "Pastafarianism", has made repeated attempts to secure the offbeat movement official status as an incorporated association.
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After the latest attempt was knocked back by the Corporate Affairs Commission, Ms Watkins sought a review of that decision, and the matter was subsequently referred to the South Australian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (SACAT).
The tribunal heard evidence from the commission and from Ms Watkins, who contended that the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster was formed for a "religious, educational, charitable or benevolent purpose", thereby meeting the criteria of South Australia's Associations Incorporation Act.
Ms Watkins told the tribunal the church placed emphasis on helping others, and had engaged in acts of charity such as an event at Flinders University to "feed the hungry".
In a ruling handed down earlier this year, and recently published online, SACAT Senior Member Kathleen McEvoy rejected the arguments for incorporation.
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"Ms Watkins explained to the tribunal that she was seeking incorporation for the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster Australia in order that the association would be recognised as a not for profit organisation under the Act, and be a legal entity in its own right," Ms McEvoy stated.
In the ruling, Ms McEvoy noted that while various "Pastafarian texts" are set out in traditional religious forms, they "contain some surprising articulations", such as references to the books of the Bible as the "Old Testicle" and "New Testicle".
"In particular there are numerous expressions which reference the texts of established religions, mimicking those texts in form and language, but in a clearly parodic form," Ms McEvoy wrote.
"I do not accept the applicant's explanation of the use of these expressions (and numerous other similar expressions, many expressed in racist and sexist terms, referencing texts or practices of other religions) as examples of humour, and for the purpose of generating curiosity."
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Ms McEvoy said she was satisfied that the "Pastafarian texts present a hoax religion".
"It is my view that the Pastafarian texts can only be read as parody or satire, namely, an imitation of work made for comic effect. In my view, its purpose is to satirise or mock established religions, and it does so without discrimination," she wrote.
Ms McEvoy upheld the Corporate Affairs Commission's decision that there was no evidence the church engaged in "systematic teaching and learning processes, nor of any structured, consistent, and broad-based charitable activities".
"I am satisfied that the proposed incorporated association merely presents as having a religious purpose, but is a sham religion or a parody of religion," she wrote.
"It was not formed for a religious purpose. On this basis, to conclude it is eligible for incorporation as a body with a religious purpose could clearly not be a preferable decision."
Ms Watkins told the ABC she found SACAT's decision "quite disappointing", and said incorporation would have brought considerable benefits.
"If you've got an association, then you should get it incorporated because then you've got government oversight, you can run a bank account and all those sorts of things so we could be transparent and above board," she said.
Ms Watkins rejected claims that the church was a "sham" and a "hoax", which she said came "from a misunderstanding".
She said the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster would continue to operate as an unincorporated body.
"You'll find that there is a core group of people who really believe in Pastafarianism and that it can change people's lives for the better," she said.
"Satire does have a serious purpose, because satire makes people think."
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