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UK Jedi get green light

Those who intend to declare their religion as 'Jedi' in the forthcoming UK census have some competition in the form of the Pagans. Whereas the Jedi are a frivolous bunch of spotty youths out to annoy the government, the Pagans are an international force of alternative faiths. And not just naked tree huggers and wiccas. Suzi explains:

I wish to protest about the term you used to describe Pagans in your recent article. You obviously have no idea of the diversity of faiths covered by the "Pagan" description - we aren't all "naked tree-huggers and wiccas". A retraction of some kind would be appreciated by those of us who are covered by the generic term Pagan (for information - the generic term "Pagan" covers just about anyone who has a faith that does not belong to one of the main three religions of Christianity/Judaism/Islam - so you just insulted rather a lot of people).

Then we have Sylvain Pimparé, who thinks that we've missed a lesson from history:

Can you tell me why it is MAD to be another religion than your own? Why do you have so much hate about other religions? Didn't the Holocaust teach you anything? If you want to be a good journalist I suggest you stop making those last sentence and stay into facts.

And finally, thanks to Yule Zephyr for this contribution:

I am very disappointed with your comment describing adherents of modern Pagan religions as "naked tree-huggers and wiccas".

Even minimal research would have prevented the misspelling of "wiccas" (I'm not going to tell you what it *should* be, you're the one supposed to be doing the research). The suggestion that we are all "naked tree-huggers" is very misconceived; those who adopt Paganism as a spiritual framework are just as varied in their opinions of naturism, trees and environmental issues as members of any other Religion. You are insulting all religions when you assume that being spiritual implies replacing your individual identity with your chosen religion's 'uniform' outlook on all matters (religious or not - including politics and attire).

I wish to point out that modern Paganism is already recognised as a faith by the Department of Health (who support fifty pagan chaplains to fulfil the 'right to solace' within the Patient's Charter) and the Home Office (funding thirty pagans to visit devotees in jail). The Heritage Lottery Fund is also considering a pagan-backed bid for restoration of Oxford's Rollright Stones, an ancient site of worship. Pete Jennings (then president of the Pagan Federation) met the International General Secretary of the World Council of Hindus and his British counterpart in May last year, where the Hindus told him that they regard themselves as a Pagan religion and feel they have much in common with modern Pagans here in the UK. As of the 2nd of October last year, freedom of religion for all those resident in the UK has been protected by the Human Rights Act 1998.

Finally, Pagans here have been looking forward to the 2001 census for a number of years not only as an opportunity to gain recognition for their very eclectic belief system, but also to learn how large their community really is. While there have been a number of estimates in recent years, they have varied wildly and an accurate appraisal is eagerly anticipated. I wish the 'Jedi' every success, but am concerned that many of their recorded adherents at the Census will have been attracted more by the novelty than a deep-seated philosophical outlook. To equate them with the young but established spiritual group known as modern Pagans is at best naïve and at worst offensive.

I believe an acknowledgement of this, if not an apology, is required.

'Fraid not. We do, however, wish all Pagans everywhere - clothed or otherwise - the very best of luck against the Jedi this Sunday.

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