Force of argument: why Jediism should be recognised as a religion

The Force is not with them! The Charity Commission for England and Wales has stated that Jediism isn’t a “real” religion and, as such, cannot be registered as a charitable incorporated organisation. That’s a hell of a thank you to the brave knights who died defending the galaxy from the dark side!

One can almost hear the sneering tone of non-believer Admiral Notti (“Do not try to frighten us with your sorcerer’s ways, Lord Vader!”) behind the double-speak legalese in the 60-point decision released by the commission. But a lot of good that paperwork will do you when you are staring down the maw of a hungry rancor in the bowels of Jabba’s palace!

Some kudos must be given to the commission for at least going through the formality of taking this task seriously. (Perhaps you’ll be reminded of the galactic senate’s vote-for-appearance’s sake granting Senator Palpatine increased executive powers, the final transformation of a benevolent Republic into a dark, malignant Empire.) But even those with a low midichlorian count (or those who don’t much care for Star Wars films) may see this as a foolish decision tainted with bigotry.

To wit: the Temple of the Jedi Order is deemed not acceptable because of its belief in the Force. Though Jedi edicts state that the Force is “the ubiquitous and metaphysical power that a Jedi believes to be the underlying, fundamental nature of the universe” and that “Jedi believe in eternal life through The Force”, the commission feels that this observation does not show enough fealty to be considered “a belief in one or more gods or spiritual or non-secular principals or things”.

While you are scratching your head about what that means, the report is quick to point out that Buddhism and Jainism is still cool. Just not Jediism.

The Commission then continues to rag on Jedis for being “an entirely web-based organisation.” Yeah, have you seen what real estate costs in London and other major cities? Why do you think they are applying for this certification?

Point 21 is when it gets cruel. Like, scald-the-soles-of-a-power-droid’s-foot cruel: “The commission considers that a religion/belief system should be characterised by a certain level of cogency, seriousness, cohesion and importance.”

Seriousness? Is there anything more serious in our Future Shocked world than eschewing technology and finding a higher truth in emotion and natural sensitivity? Especially during a final Death Star trench run? (Granted, it’s also helpful to have Harrison Ford swoop in at the last minute and blast the TIE fighters on your tail.)

The commission cites that “there is no worldwide authority or structure for Jediism”. Right, because the various strains of Christian clerics at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher don’t sometimes attack one another with brooms? (To use one of the very few benign examples of sectarian in-fighting.)

The worst part – the commission’s equivalent of the sacrifice of the Younglings, if you will – comes when the report denies that Jediism fails to provide “moral and ethical value or edification to the public”.

Jokes aside, this is where the report shows their aim is as wobbly as Greedo’s. In terms of sheer numbers, the amount of people exposed to Jedi thought has to compete with most of the world’s “true” religions. Even people that don’t like Star Wars end up seeing Star Wars. The verbiage in the commission report goes round and round on the point about Jediism being a little mercurial, and that’s a fair complaint, but its “moral and ethical” philosophy is “edified” to people young and old just as well, if not better than a lot of other faiths. Master Yoda’s aphorisms up against an inscrutable textbook is a battle that may end in a tie.

Despite this setback, the Force will still be with us, always. And if not, we can always go and learn Klingon.