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Bad news for Star Wars fans: Jedi Order fails to register as a religion

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Tom Fordy
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The beauty of being a Jedi, of course, is that you can pull that Jedi mind trick shit on pretty much anyone to get what you want. This brings the Force-wielding credentials of The Temple of the Jedi Order into serious disrepute, as they’ve failed to convince the Charity Commission that it’s a proper religion.

Surely, all you need to do is walk into the office and say, “This is the religion you’re looking for”, and job done.

Clearly not.

The Temple of the Jedi Order calls itself “a Jedi church and international ministry of the religion Jediism and the Jedi way of life”. Naturally, they believe in “the Force, and in the inherent worth of all life within it”.

But even with all the excitement for Rogue One, the Charity Commission wasn’t impressed when they applied for charitable status, ruling that it doesn’t consider the Temple meets the criteria for religion under UK charity law. The Commission was “not satisfied that the observance of the Force within Jediism is characterised by a belief in one or more gods or spiritual or non-secular principles”.

It also noted that the Jedi Order – which does have charitable status in the US – is essentially an “online community” and there’s insufficient evidence that “moral improvement is central to the beliefs and practices”. According to the Commission’s report, the Jedi Order borrows philosophies from other religions (no bad thing, of course) but that doesn’t amount to it being “a sufficiently cogent and distinct religion”.

Clearly someone at Charity Commission needs a Star Wars movie marathon session. They’d see pretty quickly that the Jedi are the guardians of peace and justice across the galaxy. Even if it turned out that they were a bit rubbish in the prequels.

In reality, the Texas-based Temple of the Jedi Order does distance itself from the characters in the film (“The Jedi here are real people that live or lived their lives according to the principles of Jediism,” they say), and claims to be more inspired by the philosophies within the movies, as well as the work of Joseph Campbell, which in turn was a huge inspiration to George Lucas when writing the original movie.

“We put a lot of work into the application and really did our best to illustrate why we do consider ourselves a religion and why we believe we do offer benefits not just to our members but also to the public at large,” says psychologist and Temple spokesperson, Brenna Cavell, as reported by The Guardian.

“It’s not based on worshipping of the force or George Lucas, although many of our members refer to a higher power or the transcendent as the Force. But you could easily exchange it for God, the universe… it’s the same thing to us, we just happened to pick that name.”

Though the Temple couldn’t confirm how many members it had in the UK (it claims to have 30,000 accounts on its site worldwide), Jedi has been a popular choice as an alternative religion in the UK. In the 2001 national census, almost 400,000 people called themselves Jedi Knights. Amazing, considering Phantom Menace was still fresh in the memory.

Numbers fell a decade later, with only 170,000 still identifying as Jedi Knights, the rest presumably turning to the teachings of the Sith.

As this ruling from the Charity Commission proves, never underestimate the power of the Dark Side. 

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Tom Fordy

Tom Fordy is a London-based writer. He is former men's magazine editor and is now works as a lifestyle and entertainment journalist and opinionated beard for hire. His interests include the great literary works of the 20th century, New Wave European cinema and the career of Hulk Hogan. Follow Tom on Twitter: @TheTomFordy

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