Jedi census phenomenon

From Academic Kids

The Jedi census phenomenon was a grassroots movement in 2001 for citizens in a few English-speaking countries to record their religion as "Jedi" or "Jedi Knight" (after the fictitious religious order from the Star Wars films) on the national census, apparently as a very large-scale practical joke.

The campaign was loosely organized by circulating emails claiming that if enough people entered "Jedi", it would be recognized as an official religion by the government. This is in fact the case in New Zealand, which led to confusion since the head of the British Office for National Statistics, Len Cook, is from New Zealand. The emails also implored people to report their religion as "Jedi" "because you love Star Wars" or "just to annoy people". Other reasons that have been suggested for this behaviour have included frivolity, a protest or mockery of the census or religion, or a desire to claim or pretend that one is a Jedi.

In Australia more than 70,000 people declared themselves members of the Jedi in the 2001 census, while 53,000 listed themselves as Jedi in New Zealand and 20,000 listed themselves as Jedi in Canada.

In England and Wales 390,000 people (0.7%) stated their religion as Jedi on their 2001 Census forms, making it the fourth largest reported religion in the country. The highest such responses were typically in cities with high student populations. The percentages of religious affiliations (excluding atheists and non-respondents) were:

  • Christian: 94.0%
  • Muslim: 3.1%
  • Hindu: 1.1%
  • Jedi: 0.7%

Jedi is still not recognised as an "official" religion in any nation where the movement took place; however, it was assigned its own code in the United Kingdom for census processing. Officials from the British Office for National Statistics have pointed out that just because "Jedi Knight" has been given its own code, that does not confer on it the status of official recognition; it merely means that it has been registered as a common answer to the "religion" statistic.

The joke may well be on the people who started the rumour. It has been suggested that many people who would otherwise not have completed a Census form did so solely to record themselves as Jedi, so this joke actually improved the quality of the Census.

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