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Leader of fringe religious group risks losing driver's licence as fight to take photo with pirate hat continues


The leader of B.C.'s Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, a fringe religious group, has been fighting for years to get his driver's licence picture taken wearing a pirate hat, but he keeps getting denied.

"It's discrimination. It's based on their objection to what I represent," said Gary Smith, also known as Dread Pyrate Higgs.

"It's easy to say what you want about something you're not willing to try and understand."

He identifies as Pastafarian, the name given to church members, who typically wear either pasta colanders or a pirate's tricorn on their heads.

Smith said his hat, which he describes as religious headwear, is significant to him as it symbolizes his devotion to his religion.

"In my view, this represents an equally plausible appreciation for those unknowable aspects of the universe that none of us will ever get to figure out," he said.

In a statement to CTV News, ICBC said it has "advised Mr. Smith on numerous occasions" that it does not "recognize him as a member of a religious group that requires accommodation in the context of a service customarily available to the public under the British Columbia Human Rights Code."

In response, Smith said the decision is "arbitrary" and "disingenuous."

"As other religions are allowed to be depicted in their headgear, it is clearly the case that facial recognition technology is not interfered with by wearing certain religious headgear. And that is the case with mine," he said.

"So it seems arbitrary and disingenuous, for sure, to suggest that some people deserve the right and I don't by virtue of what I believe," he continued.

In 2019, Smith filed a complaint with the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal, alleging religious discrimination.

The tribunal dismissed it, saying "Canadian courts have previously observed that the practices followed by 'Pastafarians' are satirical in purpose." 

Smith said this isn't true, as he's explored other religions and finds this one satisfies his appreciation for the unknown.

"This is a matter about church and state. They should not be making any policy decisions with respect to a person's stated religion," he said.

Smith has been issued temporary, photo-less driver's licences, which he keeps having to renew. He said he was recently informed that he will no longer be able to do that after October when his current one expires.

He filed a freedom of information request to get files on the matter and came back with 691 pages. Most of files were redacted, according to Smith.

He's now looking into hiring a lawyer and continuing the battle, but ICBC said he's welcome to come in and get his photo taken, just without a pirate hat. Top Stories

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