The Charity Commission, the independent regulator and registrar of charities in England and Wales, today published its decision to reject an application for registration by The Temple of the Jedi Order.
This was an application to establish a new charitable incorporated organisation, with purposes including ‘to advance the religion of Jediism, for the public benefit worldwide, in accordance with the Jedi Doctrine’. Jediism, as promoted by the applicants, draws not only on the mythology of the Star Wars films, but also on recognised religions and other philosophical doctrines.
In order to be a charity, an organisation must be established for exclusively charitable purposes for the public benefit. In law, the range of charitable purposes includes the advancement of religion and the advancement of moral or ethical improvement for the benefit of the community. Although the application was made on the basis that Jediism is a religion, the Commission also considered whether Jediism would promote moral or ethical improvement.
In relation to the advancement of religion, the Commission considered this application in line with the underlying law which is currently reflected in its published guidance on the advancement of religion for the public benefit. Since that guidance was published, the Supreme Court has issued its judgment in the case of R (on the application of Hodkin and Another) v Registrar General of Births Deaths and Marriages). In this judgment, the meaning of ‘religion’ in the context of ‘places of meeting for religious worship’ with the effect that marriage can be performed there was considered. The Commission took into account the extent to which this judgment may have influenced the meaning of ‘religion’ in charity law.
The Commission concluded that Jediism, as promoted by the Temple of the Jedi Order, is not a religion and does not promote moral or ethical improvement, for the purposes of charity law in England and Wales and so rejected the application.
Kenneth Dibble, the Chief Legal Advisor at the Charity Commission, said:
The law relating to what is and is not a charity evolves continuously and, as in this case, can be influenced by decisions in other areas. Our role is critical in interpreting and explaining the extent of what the law considers charitable.
The meaning of ‘religion’ in charity law has developed over many years, and now encompasses a wide range of belief systems. The decisions which the Commission makes on the extent of this meaning can be difficult and complex, but are important in maintaining clarity on what is, and is not, charitable.
The decision is published on GOV.UK.
Notes to editors
The Charity Commission is the independent regulator of charities in England and Wales. To find out more about our work, see our annual report.
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