Renewed Debate over Alaska’s Establishment Clause: Hunt v. Kenai Peninsula Borough and the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster

by Mary Beth Barksdale

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Abstract

In 2019, a pastor of the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, a "Pastafarian," raised concerns about the entanglement of Alaskan local government and religion. His commentary highlighted the need to take a fresh look at Alaska's establishment clause jurisprudence. While Hunt v. Kenai Peninsula Borough addressed legislative prayer, further questions remain open about the limits of public spending on religious institutions, the need to honor Alaska’s religious diversity, and the role of religion in everyday Alaskan government. While the Alaska jurisprudence has not changed much since the 1980s, the Pastafarians have demonstrated that establishment clause debates are alive and well. Therefore, Alaska may look to early constitutional debates in other states, like Massachusetts and Virginia, to evaluate its policy choices, balancing the esteemed place of religion in Alaskan society and the deep-seated belief in separation of church and state.

Renewed Debate over Alaska’s Establishment Clause: Hunt v. Kenai Peninsula Borough and the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster

by Mary Beth Barksdale

Click here for a PDF file of this article

Abstract

In 2019, a pastor of the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, a "Pastafarian," raised concerns about the entanglement of Alaskan local government and religion. His commentary highlighted the need to take a fresh look at Alaska's establishment clause jurisprudence. While Hunt v. Kenai Peninsula Borough addressed legislative prayer, further questions remain open about the limits of public spending on religious institutions, the need to honor Alaska’s religious diversity, and the role of religion in everyday Alaskan government. While the Alaska jurisprudence has not changed much since the 1980s, the Pastafarians have demonstrated that establishment clause debates are alive and well. Therefore, Alaska may look to early constitutional debates in other states, like Massachusetts and Virginia, to evaluate its policy choices, balancing the esteemed place of religion in Alaskan society and the deep-seated belief in separation of church and state.