The Charity Commission for England and Wales has refused to officially recognise Jediism as a religion, dealing a blow to nearly 176,632 people in the United Kingdom who identified themselves as Jedi knights in the official census from 2011 — around 0.3 percent of the UK's population. Fans of George Lucas' Star Wars saga, however, are busy celebrating the success of its latest instalment, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.
The development comes after the Temple of the Jedi Order (TOTJO) "applied to constitute as a Charitable Incorporated Organisation and be entered onto the register of charities on March 7, 2016," according to the commission. The temple claims on its official website: "Jediism is the religion of those who regard their Jedi practice as a religious vocation. Jedi observe a metaphysical entity called the Force and often practise meditation."
People started identifying themselves as Jedi or Jedi knights in official documents — like census forms — all across the world after a global movement in English-speaking countries urged them to do so in 2001, two years after Star Wars Episode I – The Phantom Menace released and one year before Star Wars Episode II – Attack of the Clones would hit the screens.
What the Charity Commission said
Since the 2001 movement, many people have identified themselves as Jedi across the world, bolstering the Jedi order as well as the temple. However, the commission was apparently not convinced. It said in its ruling in the case that it was "not satisfied that TOTJO is established for exclusively charitable purposes for the advancement of religion and/or the promotion of moral and ethical improvement for the benefit of the public."
Explaining its decision-making process in a 10-page document, the commission said: "Jediism does not meet the characteristics of a religion for the purposes of charity law." It added: "There is a lack of clarity as to what beliefs, principles and practices are promoted given the diversity within Jediism and the concept of liberty of thought and individual choice."
There are several more observations the commission makes:
* There is insufficient evidence of Jediism directly promoting moral improvement within society generally.
* Although TOTJO is web-based and accessible to the public, it is not evident what positive beneficial impact TOTJO has on society in general.
* The commission concluded that there is insufficient evidence that the purpose of TOTJO is the promotion of moral or ethical improvement for the benefit of the public for the reasons set out above.
Conclusion: The commission is not satisfied that the public benefit requirement is met either for the advancement of religion or the promotion of moral or ethical improvement for the reasons set out above.