A pirate’s life for he: Suspended “pastafarian” speaks out

Bryan Killian is a lot like any other 16-year-old. The North Buncombe High School sophomore enjoys music, computers and hanging out with his friends. But when he decided last week to come to school dressed like a pirate, his life took a decidedly different turn, placing him at the center of a whirlwind of controversy over freedoms of speech and religion.

photo by Jason Bugg

At first, Killian wore both an eye patch and inflatable sword (the kind offered with a Happy Meal at McDonald’s, where Killian works). When school staff asked him to shed the swashbuckling regalia, he put the sword away, but kept the patch—and continued to wear it even after administrators told him not to.

Killian says that, unlikely as it may seem, his patch is a matter of principle. He professes devotion to “pastafarianism” (the tenets of the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster), which holds that pirates are deities.

But school officials didn’t see the eye patch as a true religious symbol, and they suspended Killian for refusing to lose the “disruptive” attire, causing an instant media frenzy that has ricocheted around the Internet and even the international press. (“Student Punished for Spaghetti Beliefs,” read the headline in one British newspaper.)

Buncombe County Schools officials released this statement about the matter: “As far as we are concerned, our decision to discipline this student had nothing to do with religion or religious beliefs. All of our schools adhere to dress codes. Clothes and items that are deemed to be inappropriate or disruptive to classroom instruction are prohibited. The student was warned four times to remove the attire. Punishment was administered due to the student’s decision to repeatedly disobey the administration’s directive.”

Now Killian’s back in school, where, most of the time, he keeps the patch in his pocket. But he’s still got plenty to say about the pirate hubbub. Last week, Xpress interviewed him over a burger and fries at his workplace. Below are excerpts from that conversation.

Mountain Xpress: Can you give a brief synopsis of Pastafarianism?
Killian: It is a religion created [as] a reply to them trying to teach creationism and intelligent design in Kansas schools, and [it was] basically created to say, “If you are going to teach intelligent design, then you are going to have to teach [our] way of intelligent design.” … A flying spaghetti monster created us all and we were first pirates.

MX: What prompted you to dress this way?
Killian: I figured … “Why not wear it, since they are having the North Buncombe Revolution?” [Editor’s note: The North Buncombe Revolution is a Christian revival that is going on after school hours at North Buncombe High.] … So I figured, “Why not do this during school?” as just like a quiet protest in a sense.

MX: Can you go into detail about how and why you were punished?
Killian: Well, on my first day I just wore the eye patch, and [the assistant principal] said, “You don’t need to be wearing this.” So I explained to her that this was my religion, and that this is what I believe. She gave me [in-school suspension] that day. The second day, everything went cool … and then at lunch the same thing happened as the first day, except that I walked outside and put it on. I figured that you can wear a hat outside, why not an eye patch?  So I went outside, and put the eye patch on and everything and then all of a sudden, it gets quiet, and [the assistant principal] walks out and says, “You come with me.” … They start yelling at me, saying that this is the third time that they told me not to wear the eye patch. I pretty much said that this is the third time I’ve told you that this is what I believe, this is my religion. It doesn’t matter how stupid it is. … In my eyes, Christianity sounds pretty stupid, but this is what I believe, and I should be able to believe it. She said that this is not exactly what you believe, but you shouldn’t wear an eye patch because it’s causing a disruption in the classroom.

MX: How much of this is you pushing people’s buttons and trying to see what you are able to get away with?
Killian: It’s not exactly that I enjoy it; it’s that if I feel something is not right, then I’ll push it. That’s how I am.

MX: Are you enjoying the attention you are getting out of this?
Killian: Not really. … I’m Southern—I don’t like that much attention. I’m not exactly enjoying it, but it’s good that the word has gotten out that I can’t wear an eye patch for what I believe in.

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7 thoughts on “A pirate’s life for he: Suspended “pastafarian” speaks out

  1. you can catch this kid working at McDonald’s and he will not be wearing an eye patch, so lets rest assure this is not a religious issue.

    had the school been holding a “pastafarian” revival would he had been lugging a cross on his back all day? I think not! “Pastafarian” was a mock religion to prove a point about teaching “intelligent design”, not an actual practiced religion where people believe a blob of spaghetti created earth.

    And for all these people screaming “First Amendment” i urge you to read the constitution before you make assumptions about your rights.

    here is the fist amendment:

    “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”

    the first amendment is written to control congress and not actual individual rights. i hate the use of the “N” word, and if you use it in my house I will be showing you the door swiftly. so now do you want to say i am denying you your first amendment rights? and let me assure you that mountainX would not be covering this story as if this kid was some first amendment right activist had he run around campus screaming the “N” word to every black person he saw and was suspended.

    this was an attention getter. had he really wanted to protest the revival he would have show up at the revival with some signs.

    i personally do not think i should be made to wear a seatbelt for my personal safety and i do not think the state should determine what is safe for me or not. but i wear it because i understand there is a consequence if i do not.

    i think the most important lesson for bryan is that you can not go through life doing as you please and then making a mockery of peoples true beliefs to slime your way out of consequences. if this was a true religion he would be wearing the patch everyday and not admit he did it because of the Christian revival. if his parents are not teaching him there are consequences to actions and they are telling him the fist amendment will protect him from anything then at least there is a school board that will teach him the harsh lessons of life and personal responsibility.

    this action was what so many parents experience from their “know all” teens. he simply thumbed his nose at the rules and said he was going to do whatever he wanted because somehow he was under the impression that he had that “right”. any parents know how aggravating it can be when their teens thumb their nose at their rules, and most of the time the parents make sure there is consequences.

  2. Christopher

    I’m sorry sir, but I just don’t believe that people are obliged to respect other’s beliefs. Agree to disagree, but respect isn’t a right. Respect individuals, but don’t respect beliefs. Just stay true to your own beliefs. This was a completely legitimate protest of the constant barrage of christianity in public schools in the south. The beauty of America is that we can agree to disagree and it’s ok.


    …and if someone wants to say the “N” word (nigger), they should just say it (they have that right). Saying certain words are bad is a way of defining the differences between people instead of just accepting that everyone is the same.

  3. Ethan C

    The public school system is a state sponsored program, and therefore is accountable to the Bill of Rights. The government does have the power to regulate speech that is offensive to others, along with a few other specific other types that have been defined in the past by the Supreme Court. However, it does not have the power to restrict the use of religious garments which do not violate the rights of other citizens. If it were a muslim and she wanted to wear a burka to school, it would be allowed. This is no different than a Pastafarian student wearing pirate regalia to satisfy the Flying Spaghetti Monster and do his part to slow global warming.

    This, along with teaching Creationism in public schools is a clear violation of the Constitutional rights guaranteed to us by the First Amendment, and I only wish that

  4. Simpkins Sisters

    How is wearing an eye-patch disruptive? Unless little Jimmy’s father was brutally maimed by pirates (and we must add that these pirates would NOT have been Pastafarians, since the Great Flying Spaghetti Monster’s chosen-pirates are peaceful buccaneers), the pirate-garb should not be considered problematic. I’m certain that if someone felt discomforted for a legitimate reason, Mr. Killian would have politely forgone the eye-patch while in the presence of little Jimmy.

    If anyone felt disturbed because their own religious beliefs did not coincide with Mr. Killian, then Mr. Killian can certainly state that his own beliefs were disturbed in turn. A free country is one where people can quietly showcase their faith and morals, but I guess at Mr. Killian’s school, that is not the case.

    I’m glad our children don’t go there.

    -Simpkins Sisters from Saskatchewan

  5. random.user

    where is Bryan Killian now? i think its nuts that they thought an eye patch was disruptive. sounds like he had crazy school boss people. power to him.

  6. kevin

    360asheville – the big difference between being told what to do at school vs at a McDonald’s job is that attendance at and compliance with rules at a government school is compulsory while attendance at a job and compliance with its requirements are by choice and not enforced by law.

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