A Press Release has been agreed between the Home Office and the Public Bodies Liaison Committee for British Paganism…
Thanks to Atlantis Bookshop… On April 26th a meeting took place between the recently formed Faith Communities Unit in the Home Office and representatives of the Pagan Federation, the Council of British Druid Orders and Wicca UK. The meeting, facilitated by a new group known as Pagans In Public Service (PIPS), was in response to the Home Office report: ”Working Together – Co-operation between Government and Faith Communities”. A copy can be downloaded at: www.homeoffice.gov.uk/docs3/workingtog_faith040329.pdf
The pagan representatives emphasised that while most government departments that consulted faith communities worked from a list (represented by nine symbols on the cover of the report)supposed to represent the major religions in the UK, the April 2001 census showed that in England and Wales those who entered their religion as “Pagan” out numbered the total for Jains, Zoroastrians and Bahais combined. This is before adding in “Wiccan”, “Druid” and “Celtic Pagan” – these were listed seperately and bring the total to around 40,000. The total for Jains, Zoroastrians and Baha”is is less than 24,000.
The Home Office explained that Paganism has not been seen to speak with one voice. The pagan representatives explained that pagans cherish variety between and within thier traditions, as do many other faiths that are divided into seperate denominations. The Home Office representatives were unaware, for example, that most Wiccans and Druids celebrate the same 8 festivals, often with each other.
The faith Communities Unit explained that part of its role is to facilitate contact between all faith communities and Government Departments. The three pagan groups will therefore be forming an ad-hoc group, to be known as the “Public Bodies Liaison Committee for British Paganism”, to deal with the Unit and to work towards equality of treatment by publicly funded bodies. The Committee will also be taking forward the FCU recommendation that faith communities need to learn how Government works, and will also make contact with the Department for Education and Skills in the hope that accurate information about Paganism can be made available to schools.
Members of the Unit will be invited to national pagan events. News of further developemnts will be made available as they happen.