Reality hates me. I’ve always said so, and now I know.
Today is but a handful of days after I posted an opinionated rant about the meaning of the quest to gain ‘official recognition’ for pagan faiths in a country that doesn’t have ‘official religions’. And it’s today – or yesterday, in fact – that the Charity Commission chooses to publish its decision on whether to grant charitable status to the Druid Network.
Which BBC News duly report as “Druidry to be classed as religion”.
It’s not that I’m taking this personally, or anything (all right, maybe a little); it’s more that borderline-dodgy reporting of this type doesn’t help our cause either, whatever that cause might be. It gives the impression that there is, after all, some official register of religions in Britain and that in order to be a ‘proper’ religion ours has to be on that list.
This isn’t the case. Quite aside from the key point that Druidry is a single religious tradition whereas ‘paganism’ is an umbrella term covering hundreds or thousands of differing beliefs, the fact is that a religion is a religion. As I said, a believer is granted a measure of protection against discrimination whatever religion they follow; provided that faith is coherent, and held with a degree of seriousness. In the case of Druidry, the ‘official recognition’ that’s been granted hasn’t suddenly validated Druidry as a religious path where it wasn’t valid before. Rather, the recognition is of The Druid Network as a charitable organisation. The Charity Commission uses a very specific interpretation of ‘religion’ as it’s defined under charity law. That’s not the same as the legal definition of a religion for other purposes, such as the Human Rights Act, or as a protected characteristic under the Equality Act 2010.
It does, of course, constitute a benefit: the Druid Network now enjoys charitable status. Again, not Druidry as a whole, despite the BBC’s claims, but the Druid Network as an entity under the direction of its own leadership. It might be that other religious groups and networks will choose to make a similar application, and if so, the Charity Commission will no doubt apply the same tests.
If you’re interested in the details of the Charity Commission’s findings, their full report on the Druid Network can be found HERE (will download the full document in PDF format – needs Adobe Acrobat or similar reader to view). This covers the legal definitions involved and the tests used to establish whether a religious group’s application should be approved.
/takes shiny pentacle and goes home.