A while back I wrote a short piece for Religion Dispatches on an odd news item involving the U.K.-based Church of Jediism, involving a would-be Sith Lord's drunken attack on one of the Church's founders and, more importantly, the powerful impact that media attention can have on new religious movements. The Church of the Jedi is in the news again-- a member is claiming that Jobcentre, a job-training organization, discriminated against him by demanding that he remove his hood indoors. Chris Jarvis argues that going hooded in public is part of his faith. "Muslims can walk around in whatever religious gear they like," he noted, "so why can’t I?" After receiving his official complaint, Jobcentre apologized. The Times' religion blog notes that the Church of the Jedi's founder, Daniel Jones, was involved in a similar dispute with Tesco last year, whose response to his complaint was anything but conciliatory: "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."
As with last year's drunken Vader attack, media coverage of this kind of story only helps small groups like the Church of Jediism, no matter how sneering it may be. For a church that literally started at a backyard barbecue, international press coverage, even as news-of-the-weird items, gives them a farther reach than they could ever have on their own. And given the amount of coverage this group has gotten in the last two years, it seems the Force is strong with this new religious movement.