I received this mail yesterday:
"As you may know there is a census coming around on August the 7th.

"For those who don't know, a census is where the government collates general information about its residents (number of people living in your house, religion, etc).

"But did you know that if there are enough people who put down a religion that isn't mentioned on the census form it becomes a fully recognised and legal religion. It usually takes about 10,000 people to nominate the same religion.

"It is for this reason that it has been suggested that anyone who does not have a dominant religion to put "Jedi" as their religion. Send this on to all your friends and tell them to put down "Jedi" on their census form. And remember ......If you are a member of the Jedi religion then you are by default a 'Jedi Knight'.

"So if this has been your dream since you were 4 years old.... Do it because you love Star Wars, If not........... then just do it out of badness."

As is normal, I then recieved this mail from five other people, and then read an article about it in The Guardian.

This email originally began in New Zealand, but has spread around the world due to the fact that many nations (i.e. Ireland, United Kingdom, NZ and Australia) are having censuses round about now. This raises a couple of questions - such as whether individual governments will recognise 10,000 'followers' as a new religion.

Even if it's not, it seems like a jolly good wheeze. More importantly, it might make governments realise that religion is becoming less relevant to people's lives, and shouldn't really be measured as a government statistic.

It has been rumoured though that the Australian Bureau of statistics were going to fine anyone who did such a thing $500 dollars. In the intrest of clarity, I mailed the ABS and asked them what their stance was on the matter. This was their response:

Dear Bernard,

Thank you for your email regarding the religion question in the 2001 Census. It is not true that Jedi would become a "recognised" religion. For a group to be included in the Australian Bureau of Statistics' classification of religion, it would have to show that there was an underlying belief system or philosophy, and that there is also some form of institutional arrangements or organisational structure. There are no strict numerical criteria.

The religion question is included in the Census as religious organisations provide a range of services to the community, such as education, hospitals, and aged care facilities.

For example, around 30% of Australian children attend schools provided by religious organisations. Census information is important for planning these facilities. Religion is also important in separately identifying some communities for which religion is key to their identity.

Section 15 of the Census and Statistics Act 1905 (CSA) provides for a penalty of $1,000 for any person who knowingly provides false or misleading information. (The CSA has been amended many times since 1905).

The religion question on the census is optional - people are not obliged to answer it. This is provided for in Section 14(2) of the CSA. However, if they choose to answer it, they are required by law to answer the question truthfully.

Whether people answering "Jedi" to the religion question on the census are knowingly providing false or misleading information would be an issue for a court to decide. The tenor of the email circulating on this issue seems to me to be arguing that people should answer Jedi not because it is a "religion" but to annoy people. To quote "this is a Sci-Fi thing, but it will also **** with the government. So if not because you love Star Wars, then just to annoy people."

Most people realise the importance of the census and therefore provide accurate information. There is always a very small number of people who will want to use the census for other purposes. The ABS is keen to stress the important uses of census data and to discourage anything that could impact on the quality of the data which will ultimately benefit all Australians.

This is an important issue at the moment and we are making every effort to ensure that the correct information is given.

Yours sincerely,

Hugh McGaw Census Processing and User Services

Why not have a Jedi as a religion? It could hardly be the worst thing ever to wear that title. Look at the number of suicide cults in the world, fueled not by belef, but money and all too often something much more sinister.

I am not particuarly a star wars fanatic, and have ony a common knowledge of George Lucas' ideas behind the Jedi, but from what I do know of it, the world prbably wouldn't be a worse place for it's existence as a religion. The Jedi is a is peaceful person with a moral sence of justice and what is right. They have strong adherence to a code of honour and allegiance to a panel or council that governs them. Most of all the Jedi don't seem to be concerned with race, size or any other prejudice, just take a look at that Yoda guy! How many times in both history and indeed the present, has a war been declared over religion. How many terrorist organisations exist solely to try and eliminate the population of another.

Religion is about personal belief, but heads of state can't seem to see that. Why do they have a barrier that allows you only to be part of an age old organistion. Does money play a part in that? or is it just that Jedi, is just a work of fiction? Thats whole new debate!

In Australia, and I would imagine all other countries, the census you submit is strictly confidential. The census collector, before being chosen for the job, has to declare that they have a safe place for them (such as a lockable safe) until they are given to a higher authority. The threat of a $1000 fine if you enter Jedi as your religion is not that great, unless, of course, they really DO collate your personal data in a way to connect it to you later, and that would open a whole new can of worms.

I suspect that 'Jedi' will be entered on many of our Australian census forms, in part to that darn email that keeps circulating, and also because our national youth radio station Triple J did a piece on it....rebellious teenagers and older larrikins will love the opportunity to mess with the system. My sister did such a thing last census - she payed homage to the 'George converts' episode of Seinfeld by putting Latvian Orthodox as her religion (an option if you have some strange hatred of Star Wars).

UPDATE: The Australian census went by on the 7th of August without any Jedi uproar, despite John Struik - head of the Australian Bureau of Statistics census section - warning that a $1000 fine was imposable for anyone giving false information. New Zealand residents also escaped fines on their March 6 census.

UK jokesters never had to worry - according to the census form itself " 'Completion of the Census form is compulsory under the Census Act 1920. If you refuse to complete it, or give false information, you may be liable to a fine. This liability does not apply to question 10 on religion." Phew!

In the UK it was reported that Jedi had actually become an official religion.This was because the Statistics Office released a list of religions found on census forms. Says The Register (theregister.co.uk) - "Coming very near the bottom of an official list of religions put out by the Statistics Office, Jedi Knight is known by the code 896. Heathen comes in at 897. Followed by Atheist at 898 and lastly None with 899. It's not exactly a ringing endorsement though since the 800s come after every other religion, no matter how obscure, and 700 is used for all "other religions". The Statistics Office was keen to point out to the public that the inclusion of Jedi meant nothing...it was not a list of official religions, but simply a list of what people had entered on their census.

The results from the Australian census came out a few days ago. In spite of the fact that Over 70,000 Australians are Jedi, the Australian Bureau of Statistics will not recognise Jedi as a religion.

Some Statistics from the census:

On Census Night, 7 August 2001, there were 18,972,350 people
(9,362,021 males and 9,610,329 females) counted in Australia 
(1). This represents an increase of 1,079,927 people (6.0%) 
since 1996 and an increase of 2,122,016 people (13%) since 
1991 . 

In 1901, data on Christian religions were released for all 
States and Australia, but data for other religions were 
available for some States only. Christians represented 95.9% 
of the population, with four major religious denominations 
accounting for 87.1% of the population. These were the Church
 of England (39.7%), Roman Catholic (22.7%), Wesleyan and 
other Methodists (13.4%) and Presbyterian (11.3%).

In 2001, Christians represented 68.0% of the population, with
 the two major denominations, Anglican and Catholic, 
accounting for 46.5% of the population. Buddhism accounted 
for 1.9% of the population and Islam for 1.5%. In 2001, 
around a quarter (25.3%) of the population stated they had 
'No religion' or chose not to answer the question.

(quoted from the Australian census website)
Apparently people who listen to the midichlorians were included in the "'No religion' or 'No answer'" category.
Here's the good news:
As far as I know the Bureau of Statistics did not carry out its threat of $1000 fines for each of Australia's Jedi. I havn't got a fine yet anyway. =)


The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) in a press release did not state you shouldn't declare your religion as Jedi. Rather it said you should not falsify your religion. In their words:
ABS recognises that people have a wide range of belief systems.

If your belief system is "Jedi" then answer as such on the census form. But if you would normally answer Anglican or Jewish or Buddhist or something else to the question "what is your religion?" and for the census you answer "Jedi" then this may impact on social services provision if enough people do the same.

ref: http://www.abs.gov.au, then do an internal search on 'jedi'

So if Anakin Skywalker was residing at 123 Camberwell Drive Rooty Hill Sydney on Census night he would be within his rights - nay, obliged - to declare his Jedism. Enough Jedi Knights in the Western suburbs would strengthen the case for a government-funded Jedi school, no doubt. After all, Jedis pay tax too.

I wonder if the census would disaggregate Jedi down to which side of the force an adherent would belong to; like within the major religions the Jedi had their own schism too, and we record separately Catholics within Christianity, Sunnis within Islam etc.

Yes, but Anakin Skywalker was fictitious. Yet there are enough real people in Australia who put more trust in the beliefs, world view and legends of popular culture than in established religions to perhaps think we should be readdressing the relative importance of this question on the census. Religion might have been important fifty years ago, but its influence has waned as television and other media take hold of public imagination about what higher forces exist beyond the material world.

Interestingly, the ABS has not applied a stricter test used by other government agencies to elicit the veracity of personal information, that of what other people think. Centrelink for example would ask Do other people think you two are in a relationship ? in assessing if a male and single mother living together are actually in a de facto relationship, which could affect the elegibility criteria for a Parenting Payment (Single) Allowance. Certain religions like Juadism are exclusivist, and I doubt few people would consider I am Jewish if they see how I devour pork yum cha. Likewise people could doubt your Jedi religion if you have never attended the requisite training, and the ABS could start slapping $1000 fines on these pretenders if, for example, they fail to make a rock levitate when demonstrating a Jedi mind trick.

The crux of the press release was to reinforce the importance of the census, requesting that people's civic mindedness would motivate people to declare personal details truthfully and accurately. One could counter that religion does not deserve the attention (and funding) in our society, and that popular culture deserves more attention. Why not fund Klingon language schools over Latin ? Or recognise a Hobbit marriage just as you would a Wahabist one?

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