Faithandthelaw's Blog

The law as it relates to Christians and their free exercise of religion

Pagan police get right to take festivals as holiday

Posted by faithandthelaw on May 14, 2010

 

A Druid Ceremony Stonehenge

Pagans celebrate the festival of Samhain at Stonehenge. Serving members of the police may take this and other pagan festivals as officially recognised holidays

Police officers have been given the right to take days off to dance naked on the solstices, celebrate fertility rituals and burn Yule logs if they profess pagan beliefs.

The Pagan Police Association claimed yesterday that it had been recognised by the Home Office as a “diversity staff support association” — a status also enjoyed by groups representing female, black, gay, Muslim and disabled officers.

Endorsement would mean that chief constables could not refuse a pagan officer’s request to take feast days as part of his or her annual leave. The eight pagan festivals include Imbolc (the feast of lactating sheep), Lammas (the harvest festival) and the Summer Solstice (when mead drinking and naked dancing are the order of the day).

Problematically, the pagan festivals also include Samhain (known to non-pagans as Hallowe’en), a day when police leave is often cancelled because of the high incidence of vandalism, violence and antisocial behaviour.

The new association, which already has three official police chaplains and committee members in the Metropolitan, Hertfordshire and Humberside forces, welcomed its breakthrough. PC Andrew Pardy, its vice-chairman and a beat officer in Hemel Hempstead, Hertfordshire, said: “The Police Service needs to embrace paganism in order to represent communities effectively.”

Mr Pardy, who worships Norse gods, added: “All activities undertaken by the association support and reinforce the vision and values of the Police Service, while upholding the Home Office standards for equality and diversity.”

However, there is unease in policing circles that the widening definition of diversity is creating a morass of organisations based on religion, gender and sexual orientation that appear to emphasise division.

Andy Hayman, the former Metropolitan Police Assistant Commissioner, said: “No one would want to deprive any officer from being able to follow their religious belief — but what is difficult to understand is why representative groups have been springing up at such an alarming rate. Members of these associations are often permitted to meet in duty time — taking them away from their policing duties. The public are right to wonder sometimes whether any police work gets done.”

Mark Wallace, of the Taxpayers’ Alliance, said he was astonished that the Home Office had time to consider the application from the Pagan Police. “Taxpayers don’t want the police obsessing about what divides them, they want them to be a united force protecting the public.

“It shouldn’t matter what your religion is when you’re a police officer — it should only matter that you are committed to fighting crime.”

The National Policing Improvement Agency said that it advised the pagan group on how to complete the paperwork needed for Home Office recognition.

The Home Office said, however, that it had refused a request for funding from the Police Pagan Association and did not endorse it as an official staff organisation.

David Davies, Conservative MP for Monmouth who also serves as a special constable with the British Transport Police, said: “It sounds like some kind of prank to me but as long as they receive no funding, then they can do what they want. However, I am concerned at the plethora of police organisations set up to support different ethnic groups and religions.”

Courtesy of http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/comment/faith/article7121843.ece#cid=OTC-RSS&attr=797084

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