Jedi census phenomenon
The Jedi census phenomenon is a grassroots movement that was initiated in 2001 for residents of a number of English-speaking countries, urging them to record their religion as "Jedi" or "Jedi Knight" (after the quasi-religious order of Jedi Knights in the fictional Star Wars universe) on the national census.
In Australia more than 70,000 people (0.37%) declared themselves members of the Jedi order in the 2001 census. The Australian Bureau of Statistics issued an official press release in response to media interest on the subject. The ABS announced that any answers that were Jedi-related in the religion question were to be classified as "not defined" and stressed the social impact of making misleading or false statements on the census. An ABS spokesperson said that "further analysis of census responses has been undertaken since the release of census data on June 17 to separately identify the number of Jedi-related responses". It is believed that there is no numerical value that determines a religion per definition of the ABS, but there would need to be a belief system or philosophy as well as some form of institutional or organisational structure in place.
The push for Australians to declare themselves as members of the Jedi order was one of the first examples of a concept going "viral" on the internet in Australia. The website which was set up to promote the concept was visited over 100,000 times in a five-week period and was first archived by the Wayback Machine on the 21st of October, 2001.
The Jedi Census phenomenon attracted the attention of sociologist of religion Adam Possamai who discusses it in his book Religion and Popular Culture: A Hyper-Real Testament. Possamai’s study placed Jediism in the context of a specific methodological classification (‘hyper-real religions’) and attempted to demonstrate that hostility existed towards new religions in Australia.
In the lead-up to the 2006 census, there were reports that writing Jedi on the 2006 census could lead to a fine for providing "false or misleading" information. This is despite previous admissions by the ABS that they were "fairly relaxed" about the issue in 2001 and that nobody had been prosecuted in at least 15 years.
In the lead-up to the 2016 census, there was a push from atheists warning not to use Jedi, imploring that it could be counted as being religious.
In the 2001 census, 21,000 Canadians put down their religion as Jedi Knight. This fact was referenced by the prime minister's office as a rationale for making the 40-page long census form voluntary. In the 2011 National Household Survey the number fell to 9,000.
In the 2011 census 303 Croats put Jedi as their religion.
The 2011 census preliminarily recorded 15,070 people answering the voluntary question on religion as belonging to the Jedi religion, described by the Czech Statistics Office as "the moral values of the Jedi knights". The office noted that this is an international phenomenon. As the 2011 census form did not list religions, these having to be filled out, the total number of Jedi is not artificially boosted by those who were not aware of the phenomenon prior to filling out the census form. On the other hand, many people encouraged others in discussions and then media to fill the Jedi religion prior 2011 census (as a form of protest against range, overall cost and obligatory filling of the census), which is probably the cause. The highest number of Jedis were recorded to live in Prague.
In a May 2012 review of the 2011 census, the Dáil Public Accounts Committee asked the Central Statistics Office about the reliability of self-reported answers, instancing people listing Jedi as their religion. The response was "We could probably tell you the number of people who have declared themselves as such, but we don't publish it".
Over 53,000 people listed themselves as Jedi in New Zealand's 2001 census. New Zealand had the highest per capita population of reported Jedi in the world that year, with 1.5% marking "Jedi" as their religion. The city of Dunedin had the highest population of reported Jedi per capita. Statistics New Zealand treated Jedi responses as "Answer understood, but will not be counted". If Jedi were counted it would have been the second largest religion in New Zealand. The percentages of religious affiliations were:
There was a fall in the number of New Zealand Jedi five years later, with some 20,000 people giving this as their religion in the 2006 census. It is unknown whether the numbers have continued to fall as the 2011 census was not completed due to an earthquake in Christchurch.
In 2012, it was reported that 640 Serbs had identified as Jedi.
England and Wales
In England and Wales 390,127 people (almost 0.8%) stated their religion as Jedi on their 2001 Census forms, surpassing Sikhism, Judaism, and Buddhism, and making it the fourth largest reported religion in the country. In the 2001 Census, 2.6% of the population of Brighton claimed to be Jedi. The percentages of religious affiliations were:
It was confirmed prior to the census that citizens were not liable for a fine in relation to question 10 (on religion). This was based on section 1(2) of the Census (Amendment) Act 2000, which amended section 8 of the Census Act 2000 to state that "no person shall be liable to a penalty under subsection (1) for refusing or neglecting to state any particulars in respect of religion". The change in the law was implemented by The Census (Amendment) Order 2000 and The Census (Amendment) Regulations 2000.
Jedi was assigned its own code in the United Kingdom for census processing, the number 896. Officials from the Office for National Statistics pointed out that this merely means that it has been registered as a common answer to the "religion" question and that this does not confer on it the status of official recognition. John Pullinger, Director of Reporting and Analysis for the Census, noted that many people who would otherwise not have completed a Census form did so solely to record themselves as Jedi, so this joke helped to improve the quality of the Census. The Office for National Statistics revealed the total figure in a press release entitled "390,000 Jedi there are".
In June 2005, Jamie Reed, newly elected Labour Member of Parliament for Copeland in Cumbria, declared himself to be the first Jedi Member of Parliament during his maiden speech. The statement, made in the context of an ongoing debate regarding the Incitement to Religious Hatred Bill, was confirmed by Reed's office to be a joke instead of a serious statement of faith. During a subsequent committee debate on the bill, the Conservative Member of Parliament for Beaconsfield, Dominic Grieve, proposed as "a bit of a joke" to exclude Jedi Knights from the protection of the proposed act, along with Satanists and proponents of animal sacrifice, illustrating the difficulty of defining religious belief in legislation. Similarly, in April 2006, Edward Leigh, the Conservative Member of Parliament for Gainsborough, asked whether he would be allowed to set up a Jedi knights faith school during a Committee debate on the Education and Inspections Bill.
On 16 November 2006, two Jedi delivered a protest letter to UN officials in recognition of the International Day for Tolerance. They requested that it be renamed the "UN Interstellar Day of Tolerance" and cited the 2001 Census showing 390,000 Jedi in England and Wales.
According to 2011 census figures, the number of Jedi had fallen to 176,632, placing it in seventh place, having been overtaken by Judaism and Buddhism, but still comfortably outnumbering any other alternative or mock religions. The magazine Metal Hammer also encouraged readers to mark "Heavy Metal" as their religion, leading to over 6,000 responses.
In Scotland, 14,052 people stated that Jedi was their current religion (14,014 "Jedi", 24 "Jedi Order" and 14 "Sith") and 2,733 stated that it was their religion of upbringing (2,682 "Jedi", 36 "Jedi Order" and 15 "The Dark Side") in the 2001 census. The proportion of people stating their religion as Jedi in Scotland was lower than that in England and Wales, at 0.277%.
In April 2009, it became known that eight police officers serving with Scotland's largest police force, Strathclyde, listed their official religion as Jedi in voluntary diversity forms. The details were obtained in a Freedom of Information request by Jane's Police Review.
On April 6, 2015, thousands of Turkish students raised their voices in campaigns to build Jedi and Buddhist temples at their universities, after a series of mosques were constructed on their campuses by rectors who stressed “huge demand.” A number of Dokuz Eylül University students in the western province of Izmir have demanded a Jedi temple to be built on their campus. "There are less and less Jedi left on the Earth... the nearest temple [is] billions of light years away," the petition says. It adds that "uneducated Padawan" are moving to the dark side... To recruit new Jedi and to bring balance to the Force, we want a Jedi temple,” said the petition that received more than 6,000 signatures on change.org, referring to the famed knights of the fictional Star Wars universe. The page on Change.org also features a still of Jedi Grand Master Yoda from "Star Wars: Episode II -- Attack of the Clones" teaching young Jedis how to use a light saber. The petition was started by Akin Cagatay Caliskan, an 18-year-old computer science student from Ankara: "We want freedom of worship. There are mosques everywhere, but no Jedi temple!" Caliskan says he is surprised by the impact his petition has made: "I did not expect so many supporters. I thought maybe it might (have) 100."
The Australian Atheist Foundation objects to non-religious individuals answering with any joke answer, because this would lead to a census undercount of non-religious people, and lessen their political influence.
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