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Touched by a Noodle: B.C. religious leader fights to wear pirate hat in license photos

Grand Forks, British Columbia — A British Columbia-based religious leader is continuing on his crusade against ICBC’s oppressive policies toward certain religious headwear, arguing that it is not up to a government corporation to test his faith.

Gary Smith of Grand Forks is the Captain of B.C.’s Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster and, as such, says he should be allowed to wear his traditional religious headwear, a pirate tricorn, in his driver’s license photo.

Followers of the Pastafarian religion have been known to wear tricorn hats and pasta colanders as symbols of their faith.

Smith says he was allowed to wear his pirate hat in ID photos for both his marriage commissioner and firearms acquisition licenses, but ICBC was proving a tougher nut to crack.

“Ahoy, Debbie [sic],” read the introduction of Smith’s April 4 letter to ICBC fair practices officer Debby Raffard.

“I will have you know that as the captain of the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster of B.C., a legally constituted religious organization in good standing under the B.C. Society Act, I have successfully argued the right to wear religious headgear in conformance with my beliefs on three other occasions.”

After his initial Feb. 17 driver’s license photo submission wearing the hat, Smith received the following response from ICBC’s manager of driver licensing integrity and oversight, Mario Bourdages.

“The head covering you wore in Feb. 17, 2022, which is the same brown tricorn hat you have worn on previous occasions for driver’s licence photo applications, was again deemed unacceptable for the purpose of printing on a B.C. driver’s licence, B.C. identification or BC Services Card.”

Bourdages went on, saying ICBC “endeavours to accommodate customers whose faith prohibits them from removing a head covering for photo identification purposes.

“We do not recognize you 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.”

Smith contends that it is not the place of an insurance company to determine what religions do and don’t deserve to be accommodated.

“What qualifications grant ICBC the ability to weigh the merits of any faith whatsoever? Hubris!” said Smith.

“The sheer arrogance in only willing to make accommodation if required under the Human Rights Code is shocking in its audacity. Ultimately, it remains for us to determine what ICBC is trying to protect in denying me and my crewmates the accommodation we seek.”

Smith and his crewmates are expected to continue their fight for religious equity as he is currently in the process of applying for a B.C. security guard ID.

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