On Tuesday Nov. 27, the Chester County Pennsylvania Commissioners held their monthly “Sunshine Meeting.” During the “public comments” portion of the meeting, Pastafarian Minister Tracy McPherson requested a space on the county courthouse lawn next to the Jesus crèche, Hanukkah menorah, Christmas Tree, and Santa for a Pastafarian Tree representing the winter Pastafarian holiday of Holiday.
McPherson made a point to inform the county commissioners that she and other local Pastafarians take their religious beliefs very seriously. Commissioner Terence Farrell (R), asked McPherson about the numbers and meeting places of her group even though none of that is relevant considering the fact that the government cannot elevate one religion over another regardless of the size or meeting places of those religions.
Still, Farrell was answered respectfully by McPherson:
“As pastor of the Evangelical Pastafarian Church, I lead my congregation through this time. Our church has more than 10,000 members, many of them local; the wider Pastafarian church has a membership in the millions. It would be meaningful to our congregation to see our faith recognized on public property at the Chester County Courthouse in the same way that the Christian and Jewish religions are currently acknowledged.”
Despite the guarantees of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, the County Commissioners will probably reject McPherson’s request. In fact, they hinted at that conclusion later in the meeting.
Following the Pastafarian request, Margaret Downey of the Freethought Society requested space for the non-theist “Tree of Knowledge” to be included on the courthouse lawn. In 2007, 2008, and 2009 the atheist group was reluctantly granted a spot on the winter lawn, but then in 2010 this changed. Since then the group has attempted to regain their place at the table but has been continually rejected.
After Downey’s comments at Tuesday’s meeting, Commissioner Ryan Costello (R) flat out stated that he rejects changing the winter display from last year. Commissioner Kathi Cozzone (D) expressed interest in allowing a more inclusive courthouse lawn during this winter season. This would make Farrell the deciding vote and he was the one who wrote last year’s guidelines specifically to exclude non-Judeo-Christian displays like those of the Freethought Society and the Evangelical Pastafarian Church.
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