I received this mail
"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:
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
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.
Census Processing and User Services