WELLINGTON — New Zealand has granted permission to the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, originally a satirical protest group, to perform marriages in the country.
The Registrar General of Births, Deaths and Marriages, Jeff Montgomery, who admits he had to look at their application twice, said the group met the criteria to legally perform the ceremony.
"My role is not to make a judgement on the validity of their philosophical or religious beliefs, it is just that they have some," he said today.
The church was born of a 2005 protest in the United States against a proposal to give equal teaching time in schools to evolution theory and to the Christian-based theory of intelligent design.
Its leader in New Zealand, who styles herself as the Top Ramen, said while so-called pastafarians traditinally wear colanders, it would also be appropriate to wear pirate garb to a church wedding.
"The first people that the Flying Spaghetti Monster created were pirates," she told Radio New Zealand this week. "We can wear the pirate gear, we can wear the pasta gear, we're quite flexible."
On its U.S. based website, the group said the decision by New Zealand authorities was welcome, but not that surprising, "both because they are a progressive open minded people, and also because of the amount of drinking that goes on over there."
Montgomery said it was the most unusual application he had considered in his three years as registrar general.
The Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster joins other alternative organizations which already perform weddings in New Zealand, including Wicca, the Church of Scientology, Druids and Heathens.
"That is one of the things that we celebrate in New Zealand, the great diversity of people who live here and the openness we have to different viewpoints. The marriage process is a serious process but no judgments are made about the people getting married," he said.
The first pastafarian wedding is still months away, he said, as the group must first put forward individuals to be vetted and approved as celebrants by the registry.
The group has used its status to question bureaucratic procedures before, often with a tongue in cheek approach.
Last year, a man known as Russell made headlines after winning the right to wear a colander in his driving license photo.
He told TV3 he was simply claiming the same privileges awarded to "those who claim to believe in a magic man in the sky. They can wear religious headwear."
Asked whether anyone had complained about the satirical group's application to hold solemn, binding weddings, perhaps by other religious groups or concerned citizens, Montgomery said no.
The Top Ramen, who did not give her real name, said the movement was about more than just satire or protest. "We're for those people who perhaps want a community but their beliefs don't fall in line with any of those other religions," she told Radio New Zealand. "We do believe that religion and science can be combined."
The public reaction appeared light-hearted, with one reader reportedly asking the broadcaster whether the group's celebrants, once approved, would be known as ministeronis.