Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Religious discrimination--an open letter to VicRoads

Dear Vicroads,

Today I had a fairly offensive and traumatic experience at your Carlton location on Lygon Street in Melbourne. I had checked beforehand and it says on your website that religious headgear IS allowed in license photos.

I wished to wear my religious headgear which easily met the requirements outlined on your website ( ). I explained to 3 different staff members that I was a Pastafarian. 2 of your staff members openly told me that my religion was not real, and not recognised by VicRoads. The manager, Melissa, stated that she was not allowed to discuss the matter, but had been told that I was not allowed to wear my religious headgear in the photo. When I asked her, however, if she would be okay if one of her staff members refused to take the photo with a Sikh or Muslim individual, she said certainly not, that indeed she would require her staff members to take the photo of such an individual with their religious headgear.

In light of all the above, I have a few questions.

1. Can you please clearly outline what the official and public VicRoads policy is regarding religious headgear in license photos?

2. Is it indeed the official policy of VicRoads to allow the headgear of certain religions in license photos, but not of other religions, as I was clearly told by 3 different employees at your Carlton location?

3. If that is the policy, is it a policy of only allowing religious headgear from certain specified religions? Or is it a policy of specifically excluding the religious headgear of certain religions? That is, when the employee at the license renewal location decides whether or not to allow a particular piece of religious headwear, are they intended to be deciding whether the headgear meets a list of requirements for inclusion, or are they intended to be deciding whether it meets a list of requirements for exclusion?

4. Is it the official policy of Vicroads for your employees to be telling individual of minority religions like mine that our religion is "not real"? Do you agree that that this is a profoundly offensive thing for your employees to say to a customer? If so, what steps has VicRoads taken, and what steps will you take in the future, to train your employees not to say such profoundly rude and offensive things to members of minority religions?

5. What further steps I can take towards being allowed to wear my religious headgear in my license photo?

Finally, if indeed it IS your position that Pastafarianism is not real, I would like to say that I'm happy to provide reams of evidence that my religion is real and that my religious beliefs are sincerely held. There are literally millions of Pastafarians in the world, and yes, while obviously we don't have the numbers of the really big religions like Christianity and Islam, that doesn't make us any less real. Pastafarians have done really amazing things to make the world a better place. For instance, We are the number two lending team among religions on Kiva, an organisation that helps individuals provide micro-loans for people in the developing world which has had a profound and lasting impact for good on many many lives. See I look forward to your timely and clear response.

Best regards,
Benjamin Ady
Thornbury, Victoria.