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Maine man wins right to wear ‘horns of power’ in license photo

Photo courtesy of Phelan Moonsong

(RNS) Yarmulkes, hijabs, wigs, turbans and habits are all religious head coverings allowed for wear in U.S. driver’s license pictures.

Add “horns of power” to the list.

A Maine man named Phelan MoonSong is now the proud carrier of a state-issued driver’s license that shows his bespectacled eyes peering out beneath a pair of pointy goat horns emanating from his forehead.

Photo courtesy of Phelan Moonsong

Photo courtesy of Phelan Moonsong

“My horns have become very important to me, the feel of them on my head,” MoonSong told The Wild Hunt, a website for pagan news and commentary. “They are like a Spiritual Antenna.”

When he wore the horns to the Bangor, Maine, Department of Motor Vehicles, a clerk asked if they were implanted in his head. He said they were not. He told the clerk he was a “Priest of Pan” — a neopagan with an Earth-based spirituality — and they were part of his religiously required garb.

The clerk snapped his picture but told him he needed to send the state various documents showing the horns were religiously required attire.

MoonSong’s request is not unprecedented. Numerous “Pastafarians” — those who maintain a tongue-in-cheek belief in the Flying Spaghetti Monster — have won the right to be photographed wearing colanders as hats.

MoonSong sent the state documentation from four scholarly tomes on pagan traditions, including one titled “Pagan Religions: A Handbook for Diversity Training.” He also fired off a personal essay about why his horns were important to him, according to the website.

Phelan Moonsong’s approved Maine identification card.  Photo courtesy of Phelan Moonsong

Phelan Moonsong’s approved Maine identification card. Photo courtesy of Phelan Moonsong

Last month,  when he called Maine’s secretary of state’s office, which handles driver’s license photos, he was told his horns would have to go.

MoonSong then appeared at the state’s motor vehicle office — horns firmly in place — and mentioned he was seeking help from Maine’s Civil Liberties Union, a civil rights advocacy group.

His horns were approved and he expects his license soon.

“I do not see any problem as long as sincere beliefs are held and whatever rules are applied are applied to all fairly and equally,” MoonSong told The Wild Hunt. “Freedom of religion means all religions, not just your own.”

About the author

Kimberly Winston

Kimberly Winston is a freelance religion reporter based in the San Francisco Bay Area.

13 Comments

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  • If the horns do not obscure his visage, then let him prance upon his merry little pantheistic way. Since absurd gestures are becoming the common currency of the realm we should not be surprised or troubled by it, it is merely a predictable, though minor, manifestation of the decay, or alternatively, transformation of the culture.

  • Absurd is in the eyes of the beholder. I find this religion just as silly and just as valid as christianity. The second ammendment states that the state can’t pass laws regarding the establishment of a religion. Other than checking the validity of a religion’s nonprofit status, they can’t pass judgement. Paganism is legally just as valid as the mainline religions.

  • It should be noted that there is a difference here between Pastafarianism, which was created as a parody of religious faith specifically as it pertained to intelligent design, and MoonSong’s beliefs, which appear to be sincere, though unusual. The courts cannot judge the validity of anyone’s religious beliefs — whether they are correct or normal — but there is trial court level precedent stating that Pastafarianism does not actually qualify as a “religious belief,” at least for federal prisoner purposes. The acquiescence of various state DMVs does not establish the same kind of legal precedent.

  • I’m really hacked off about this! The DMV where I recently renewed my drivers license renewed made me take off my cowboy hat and expose my bald head,

    This guy can wear all the horns he wants, I see a lot of silliness and not much power here. I bet I could kick his ass! Well, anyway he got his 15 minutes of fame!

  • The 2nd amendment refers to the right to bear arms. The 1st Amendment addresses the question of religion. Further, it is directed to the Congress, i.e., the Federal government; at the time written and adopted, individual states had the constitutional freedom to establish state churches, though such rights have since been superseded by the Supreme Courts’ rather broad reading of the 14th Amendment. Nor did I question the legality of the gentleman’s religious choice

  • I’m glad he has the horns in his ID, if he gets pulled over and doesn’t have the horns on then the cop still knows he is dealing with an idiot and gives him a ticket.

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