The Times Online reported yesterday that
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).
This is, of course, a welcome development for very many reasons. One of them, certainly, is that it tells us that the ethnically-conscious European descended peoples can also enjoy the rights and benefits the diversity state apparatus accords every other group in the West. Another of them is that it begins, for the first time and as evident by the reaction elicited by the Home Office decision, to stretch that apparatus beyond the limits of sustainability:
...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.
Interestingly, some have finally begun to notice that a diverse workforce does not - as it is so often claimed (without substantiation of any kind) - increase performance; that it can be, in fact... problematic:
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."
As it happens, it seems some are already realising that diversity is not a strength at all, but a weakness:
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.
And that the public would be better off without a diverse workforce:
"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."
Be that as it may, I am personally pleased that European pagans can rest at ease, secure in the knowledge that, so long as the diversity state apparatus exists, they will not be discriminated against because of their religious beliefs in our increasingly competitive and diverse world; that, in as much as they are being granted the right to official recognition as a distinct group with unique special interests, it is being afforded equal treatment before the law.
In that context, I hope that official state recognition of paganism will extend to industry and the civil service, and that existing anti-discrimination and pro-diversity legislation, as well as existing enforcement mechanisms, will be enhanced and expanded to reflect this extension.
The next battleground has already been identified:
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."
So the battle for funding now begins...