It’s a wonderful time to be a fan of the Star Wars franchise. Not only have Disney and J.J. Abrams brought the series back to the big screen, but they’ve injected new life, enthralling new stories, and captivating new characters into the Star Wars universe for the first time in over thirty years (we’ll just agree that those prequels never happened…). The new films have created an entire new fan base out of many individuals who were far too young - or not even born yet - to remember the original trilogy. Aside from the new films, Star Wars has been making headlines around the world lately thanks to the attempts of a group of real-life “Jedi” who have been petitioning the U.K. government to recognize Jediism as an official religion.
Unfortunately for these Jedi masters and their young padawans, their most recent application was denied. The U.K. government’s Charity Commissioner issued a public statement of denial, stating that they do not believe the Temple of the Jedi Order (TOTJO) to be a religion, based on their existing deity-specific definition of what constitutes a religion:
Based on the proposed governing document, the evidence received in support of the application and the content of the website of TOTJO, the Commission is 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 or things which is an essential requirement for a religion in charity law.
Hrm, bummer, that is. According to their website, TOTJO bases their official doctrine on “the observance of the Force, a ubiquitous and metaphysical power that a Jedi (a follower of Jediism) believes to be the underlying, fundamental nature of the universe.” While that sounds sort of religion-y and all, the group was similarly denied religious status in New Zealand last year.
Before you scoff at these Jedis as simply a group of overzealous fanboys and fangirls, consider that in several recent government censuses in the U.K., Jediism has ranked as the most popular alternative to organized religions. Given that science fiction stories (or at least a former science fiction author...don't sue me please) have been known to lead to the creation of at least one worldwide religion before, it’s not out of the realm of possibility that the Temple of the Jedi Order might one day soon win their legal battles and let the Force be with us all.