What Do You Want II: The Revenge of the Charity Commission

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.

Thank you.

/takes shiny pentacle and goes home.

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3 thoughts on “What Do You Want II: The Revenge of the Charity Commission

    • Impressive stuff, in a grim-yet-strangely-comical sort of a way. I was going to post a comment up on her article, but I had trouble finding a gap between all the people saying pretty much what I was going to say.

      It’s heartening to see that, by the time comments were closed on her piece, she’d garnered a rather stonking 357 comments – the vast majority of which were, to put it mildly, ripping her to shreds.

      Not that I think it’s likely to have much effect. From what I know of her, she’s essentially a paid troll. She writes deliberately provocative items in the hope of stirring up anger and therefore attention for her paper.

      But, for what it’s worth, I had a free hour or two yesterday so, for lack of anything better to do, I wrote up my own comment on her piece at the link below. It’s long, it’s untidy, and it’s entirely my view and not necessarily that of the Chesterfield Pagans, and she’s never going to see it anyway; but if you’d like to read, feel free. 🙂

      http://wildroad.wordpress.com/2010/10/06/melanie-phillips-on-druidry-and-paganism/

  1. Oh. Wow. And I only skim-read it. There are some things which I refuse to sully my eyes with. That is quite spectacular. Lady Ginger, I applaud you on finding something so incredibly offensive and downright rude.
    I love that way that the only quotes she has are an unknown police officer and a Radio Four broadcast as her two sources – sheer genius 🙂
    And, and that there are 100 MOD peoples who are pagan, out of how many exactly?!? If they’ve choosen to do the job of risking their butts on my behalf, I really don’t care what belief system they hold… I fear I’m preaching to the converted, but ’tis good to have a rant occasionally! Mind you, there have been 277 comments on her post since it arrived yesterday, so I fear we are not the only ones who feel a little bruised.
    As for good solicitors, I know quite a few, sadly this is an opinion piece, not a researched article in the main newspaper, and thussly I fear our first hurdle… As I understand it this is her personal opinion, we might just hit a snag in classing it as official Daily Mail discrimination… shame…

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