We are pleased to announce that four and a half years after submitting the original application The Druid Network has finally been accepted for registration by the Charities Commission of England and Wales. To put it in more �official� language TDN has been accepted as being �established for exclusively charitable purposes for the advancement of religion for the public benefit�. You can view the decision document on the Charity Commission website here
This recognition firmly establishes Druidry as an accepted religion in English Charity Law and is an historic legal decision as we are the first pagan charity to be registered under the Charities Act 2006. However, there has also been much talk in the media and in pagan circles that this makes Druidry an �officially recognised religion�. This is not quite correct. There is no definition of religion in English Law and all spiritual beliefs are already protected under other legislation. So, just what does it mean for TDN and the wider community? What it does NOT mean is that we have defined Druidry for all Druids. The Charity Commission considers all cases on an individual basis if they are not covered by an umbrella organisation. Others are free to submit their own interpretation. The decision by the CC is that Druidry and its practice as put forward by TDN is recognisable as a valid religion.
What it does mean is if organisations can meet the other requirements for registration and use our definition they will be accepted. If they use one that differs greatly they will need to explain through the review procedure, as TDN has had to do.
However, in making the application we spent four and a half years in putting our case. The Charity Commission lawyers had little if any understanding of what we meant by polytheism, animism, pantheism or indeed any theism other than monotheism. In addition pagan philosophy was fully alien to them. It wasn�t that they were being deliberately obstructive; they simply had no way of understanding us. That through persistence we managed to break down those barriers is both a credit to our persistence and to the Charity Commission for having the open minds to try to understand. And finally they did! In our first meetings with them our attempts were met with blank stares and mumbled replies. My last meeting by telephone conference highlighted the change in perception, they really knew what they were talking about and asked very pertinent questions. And that is the greatest success. The Charity Commission now has a much broader definition and understanding of religion. This will help all other minority faiths, not only those who wish to register, but in many other areas of society where there is misunderstanding of the term �religion�. Because there is no definition of religion in English Law other bodies look to the Charity Commission for clarity. And there is now much greater clarity, TDN hasn�t defined Druidry for all, it has helped clarify the definition of religion in Charity Law!
So what does it mean for TDN? Well it means we are an organisation that is regulated by the CC and therefore it gives a level of acceptance and credibility. It means we have access to services that otherwise would be denied to us. And to a certain extent it should give us a voice that isn�t dismissed out of hand. There is also the financial benefit that we can claim tax relief on behalf of the donor for donations given to projects that are charitable. So, every �10 that someone donates to a tree-planting project becomes �12.50 after tax relief. But financial benefits were not the reason we applied.
So, why did we put ourselves through this process, just why did we do it? Quite simply
because we had to, it is a legal requirement for us to either register as a not for profit company or as a charity. TDN Ltd didn�t seem right so we chose the latter option. In English Charity Law you have to register under certain specified �heads of charity� and being an organisation providing information for and facilitating a pagan religion we had to register as �furthering religion�. The initial application was rejected and so the journey began, and what a ride it has been.
Phil Ryder � Chair of Trustees
As a member of the Druid Network I am delighted to hear this great news. It does not affect me here in Ireland but I am greatly pleased by this development. It sits alongside the recognition of the Pagan Federation here in Ireland and its status as a recognised body authorised by the Irish State to Solemnise Marriages. TDN took only 4.5 years to get recognised, the Irish PF took 5 years to get recognised� These are steps forward for freedom of choice for people in their expression of religious and spiritual freedoms and at the same time we must stay conscious that it is also clearly the loss of dominance and power over choice by the Catholic Church and its many variations.