- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 11, 2014

An Oklahoma woman persuaded the State Highway Patrol to allow her to wear a spaghetti strainer for her driver’s license photo because it is part of her religion.

Shawna Hammond of Enid, Oklahoma, told news site KFOR that the colander represents “our freedom of religion, and to whatever religion we prefer or lack of religion.”

“It felt good to be recognized that we can all coexist and have those equal rights,” Ms. Hammond said.

Religious headpieces are permitted in photos as long as the headpiece does not obstruct a person’s face. Ms. Hammond’s license shows her smiling with an upside-down metal strainer atop her head.

She told the photographer that she is “Pastafarian” and a member of the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster.

The church was first mentioned in a 2005 letter to the Kansas State Board of Education, written by Bobby Henderson. In arguing against creationism in schools, Mr. Henderson mentioned the monster as a way to prove “it had just as much merit” as traditional Christian religions, Ms. Hammond said.

BIG BUCKS

Senior pastors in large Southern churches tend to have bigger paychecks, a study shows.

The 2014 Large Church Salary Report, conducted by the Leadership Network and Vanderbloemen, found that senior pastors earned $100,000 to $300,000.

“Public media often describe large church pastors as corporate CEOs, and while there are many parallels in terms of leadership responsibilities, the parallel largely ends with salaries,” the survey found.

The higher a church’s attendance and budget, the larger the salary. The survey also found that 3 percent pay raises were the most common salary bumps.

The survey was taken among 91 Protestant churches with attendance of 5,000 people or more, across 42 states and in portions of Canada. The survey was conducted from February through May.

FAUX FRANCIS

It’s no Bieber Fever, but folks in the Philippines are getting excited about Pope Francis’ visit next year.

The Associated Press reported this week that people are posing for pictures with life-size cardboard cutouts of the pontiff that are being distributed by a church-run radio station. The cutouts were sent to churches, schools and malls in Manila with the hope of stoking “papal fever.”

Francis is scheduled to visit the Philippines Jan. 15-19.

SECOND LIFE

A Thai Buddhist monk’s attempt to meditate himself to death was thwarted by authorities this week.

Luang Pu Pim, 65, entered a wooden coffin Tuesday night near his home in northern Thailand. By Thursday afternoon, he was being treated at a hospital.

The Bangkok Post reported that he told fellow monks and laymen that he planned to enter the closed coffin and meditate until he died.

Officials got wind of the plan, and after about an hour of negotiation, were able to persuade the monk to allow his coffin to be open and him to be taken for medical treatment.

The Post reported that the monk’s family said he had been preparing for his death for 10 years and died once in a cave but came back to life.

Meredith Somers covers religion and faith issues for The Washington Times.

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