The new “Jedi” religion, based on the Star Wars movies, has grown rapidly to the point where it may be the fourth largest religion in Britain. However, no religion has really arrived until its adherents can claim to be victims of religious discrimination. And it seems that the Dark Side of the Force has finally gotten around to discriminating against the Jedi:
Tesco [a British supermarket chain] has been accused of religious discrimination after the company ordered the founder of a Jedi religion to remove his hood or leave a branch of the supermarket in north Wales.
Daniel Jones, founder of the religion inspired by the Star Wars films, says he was humiliated and victimised for his beliefs following the incident at a Tesco store in Bangor.
The 23-year-old, who founded the International Church of Jediism, which has 500,000 followers worldwide, was told the hood flouted store rules…
Jones, from Holyhead, who is known by the Jedi name Morda Hehol, said his religion dictated that he should wear the hood in public places and is considering legal action against the chain.
“It states in our Jedi doctrination that I can wear headwear. It just covers the back of my head,” he said.
“You have a choice of wearing headwear in your home or at work but you have to wear a cover for your head when you are in public.”
He said he’d gone to the store to buy something to eat during his lunch break when staff approached him and ordered him to the checkout where they explained he would have to remove the offending hood or leave the store.
“They said: ‘Take it off’, and I said: ‘No, its part of my religion. It’s part of my religious right.’ I gave them a Jedi church business card….
Tesco said: “He hasn’t been banned. Jedis are very welcome to shop in our stores although we would ask them to remove their hoods.”
“Obi-Wan Kenobi, Yoda and Luke Skywalker all appeared hoodless without ever going over to the Dark Side and we are only aware of the Emperor as one who never removed his hood.”
I don’t know if Jones has a serious case under British antidiscrimination law. It’s unlikely that a suit like this could succeed in the US. Title II of the Civil Rights of 1964 forbids discrimination on the grounds of religion in “places of public accommodation” (including stores). However, a general store rule like the ban on hoods that happens to constrain a particular religion without deliberately targeting them is usually considered legal under Title II. Otherwise, stores would be unable to to adopt any customer dress restrictions at all. Any such code would violate the rules of at least some religions. Things might be different if the Jedi could prove that the ban on hoods was a deliberate effort to target their religious group. But that seems unlikely, though it may be that I just don’t understand the true extent of the Dark Side’s power.