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Jedi knights no joke for Aussie census

Darth Vader
So Mr Vader, how long have you been in the employ of the dark side?  

SYDNEY, Australia (CNN) -- Would-be Australian Jedis take note: The only 'force' that is likely to be with you is a $500 fine.

That is the warning from the Australian Bureau of Statistics for anyone who claims they are a "Jedi" in the August 7 national census.

It follows a widely circulated e-mail encouraging Australians to identify their religion as 'Jedi Knights', a fictional group made popular in the Star Wars movies who claim among their number such luminaries as Darth Vader, Luke Skywalker and the diminutive Jedi Master himself, Yoda.

"If there are enough people in the country, about 10 000, who put down the same religion, it becomes a fully recognized and legal religion," says the e-mail.

But according to The Age newspaper, authorities are taking slightly darker view about what could be seen as an annoying prank or a devotion to Star Wars.

Formal structure

Head of the ABS census program, John Struik, says to be recognized as a religion a belief system with a formal organizational structure must be demonstrated.

"If we get 10,000 Jedis they will go down as no official religion," Struik told the Age.

He said the question on religion was used to provide valuable data to plan community services such as education, hospitals and aged care facilities.

Not that Struik is too concerned about the email -- at least, not just yet.

"It provides a bit of amusement, and people learn about the census," he says, " but providing deliberately false information also carries a $500 fine."



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The Age
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