Jedi not religious enough for a tax break in New Zealand, says Department of Internal Affairs

Jedi Craig Thomas (pictured) ran unsuccessfully for council in 2010. He is one of thousands of self-professed Kiwi Jedi, ...
JASON OXENHAM/FAIRFAX NZ

Jedi Craig Thomas (pictured) ran unsuccessfully for council in 2010. He is one of thousands of self-professed Kiwi Jedi, some of whom believe the faith deserves legitimate religious recognition. IMAGE DIGITALLY ENHANCED.

The force is strong in New Zealand - but not strong enough for a tax break.

The Department of Internal Affairs has rejected a request by the Jedi Society Incorporated to be recognised as a legitimate charitable endeavour, with all the tax-free benefits that entails.

The society was established in April 2014, with an aim of acting as "guardians of peace" and keeping a particular eye on agents of the dark side of the force.

As well as protecting the galaxy, the society said it would promote the Jedi religion, build a temple and try to grow the number of Jedi adherents in New Zealand.

READ MORE: Jedi still believe in the Force despite census snub

But these lofty goals did not meet the threshold needed to be officially considered a charity.

In a decision earlier this month, the department's charity services board found that the society did not "advance religion" or "promote a moral or spiritual improvement".

Specifically, Jediism was not consider "structured, cogent or serious" enough to count as a religious organisation and therefore was not eligible for tax-emptied charitable status, the board said.

Anthony Bremner, of the New Zealand Jedi Society's Jedi Council, said the society would take the board's comments into account, make some changes and re-apply for charitable status.

"Not achieving charity status would be disappointing to those without Jedi training. Disappointment is not a Jedi trait," he said.

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Jediism is based on the Star Wars films, a science-fiction series that centres around a galactic struggles between the light and dark sides of the force.

In the films, lightsaber-wielding Jedi knights use the light side of the "the force", a binding universal power that gives them special powers.

Jediism as a real world phenomenon gained traction in 2001 after a campaign in the United Kingdom and Australia urging people to declare themselves "Jedi" in the census.

In the 2011 New Zealand census, nearly 19,089 Kiwis declared themselves adherents of the Jedi religion.

However, the census does not recognise Jediism, marking all of these responses as "not legitimate". This was despite the self-professed Jedi outnumbering many officially recognised religions, including the Church Of Scientology, which had only 315 devotees in the country.

In 2010, Auckland man Craig Thomas even ran for council on a "Jedi platform" and Jedi weddings are also available in New Zealand.

The Jedi church website states that the basic religious tenets are a belief in the force, which binds the universe together, and doing what was "innately" good.

Adherents are urged to "listen to the force and beware of the dark side".

Self-professed Wellington Jedi Renee Lee said with the new Star Wars films, the first released to cinemas in December, on their way it was only a matter of time before Jediism's popularity become too big to ignore.

"There is a whole young generation that are going to learn about the force," she said.

"I do think charities service should give these guys a chance."

And while the Jedi Society did not make the cut as a charity this time, the board has left the door open for another attempt.

It considered that one day "Jediism may develop the level of seriousness and structure necessary to advance religion".

 - Stuff

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