Impasta Religions

Religious regulations should be reinforced

By Sabrina Sun | Staff Writer

Sophomore Sarvesh Sadana, a member of the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster (FSM) expresses his religious beliefs by strapping a pasta strainer to his head as a sign of his belief in a divine carbohydrate entity. Church members, or “Pastafarians,” are encouraged to show their faith by wearing pasta strainers and concluding their prayers with the affirmation “Ramen”, a parody of “Amen”. This may sound a bit far-fetched to non-believers; indeed, Pastafarianism was founded by Bobby Henderson for satirical purposes. However, despite its ludicrousness, the Church is a tax-exempt, government-recognized religion. Governmental regulations have proven unreasonably slack when it comes to granting religious organizations tax exempt status and thus result in corruption and financial exploitation of such benefits.

The Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster is uninteresting compared to other government-recognized religions, such as the Church of Last Thursday, which believes that the universe was created last thursday, and the Temple of the Pink Invisible Unicorn, whose practitioners worship an invisible and pink unicorn.

Though satirical institutions including Pastafarianism, the Church of Last Thursday, and Invisible Pink Unicorn seem absurd, they easily fulfill the IRS’s loose requirements for tax exempt status. One IRS requirement is that “An association cannot be formed by a single individual, thus one individual cannot promulgate articles of association.” Therefore, instead of one member signing the document, astounding two signatures are required. The IRS also requires a religious article/document that limits the followers to certain purposes and beliefs. FSM’s religious document, “The Gospel of the Flying Spaghetti Monster,” lists the church’s colorful ideologies, including the belief that humans evolved from pirates.  Furthermore, to qualify for tax exemption, the IRS requires that the organization’s assets be dedicated towards an exempt purpose. The FSM is currently saving their funds for the purpose of purchasing a floating pirate ship which will double as their church .

Although the FSM is a harmless spoof, the fact that similar organizations successfully fulfilled the registration requirements reveals lax regulations and opportunities for financial exploitation. For example, Singapore City Harvest Church (CHC) recently came under fire for embezzling millions of dollars.  

In 2012, several core members of CHC faced accusations of misusing $18 million worth of church funds and donations to support the founding pastor’s wife’s pop music career. In addition, the church leaders were sentenced for attempting to use an additional $19 million to conceal the embezzlement. The CHC also tried to gain financial control over a popular convention center by attempting to collect $250 million from followers.

Unscrutinized granting of tax exemption provides a hotbed for the inception of religious organizations and lack of governmental regulations and supervisions render corruption and crime tantalizing. By no means, however, do these incidents convey that all religions should cease to exist. Nonetheless, religious organizations who oppose government supervision should consider how corruption reflects poorly on religion in its entirety. Both the government and religious organizations should cooperate to maintain the legitimateness of both established and newly created religions.