A University of Derby-led research team has conducted a survey of religious groups, analyzed legal rulings over the last decade, and polled individuals in several cities, with the results finding “substantial” discrimination against religious minorities and new religious movements in the UK. Especially affected groups include Muslims, members of new religious movements, and modern Pagans.
“The project’s initial findings have identified […] substantial reporting of unfair treatment on the basis of religion or belief continuing across key areas of people’s lives […] reports of unfair treatment indicate that it continues to particularly affect certain sectors (employment, education and the media) and religious groups (Muslims, Pagans and New Religious Movements).”
Paul Weller, Professor of Inter-Religious Relations at the University of Derby, told Huffington Post UK that the team noticed a a “particular frequency and severity in the complaints relating to” Pagans and new religious movements.
“There are many instances of discrimination against Christians, but the discrimination against new religions is more ‘in-your-face’, verging on hatred. For Pagans, many of them have kept their religion secret, for fear it would be misunderstood.”
These findings seem to echo findings from Australia last year, which found Pagans in that country faced widespread distrust and hostility. Likewise, the recent flap over a Pagan prison chaplain in Canada, or the recent story here in the United States alleging discrimination at a doctor’s office, all point to the fact that many tensions and challenges remain despite our advances. We may be an increasingly known quantity in the West, but it’s important to remember that we’re still a tiny minority largely operating within a Christian/monotheistic context that has been traditionally hostile to our faiths.
Moving forward, the research team is engaging in a series of ‘knowledge exchange workshops’ to take place in Derby, Oxford, Cardiff, ‘Manchester and London over the next three months. At these workshops they will share their data, seek input from religious and community groups. The final results of these workshops will be integrated with the work completed already, and posted at the University of Derby’s website. I encourage UK Pagans who are able to attend these workshops and share their experiences, opinions, and ideas on how we can collectively move forward.
While receiving news of ongoing discrimination against modern Pagans is disappointing, we can at least use this knowledge to draw attention to the challenges we face, and meet them in an organized and educated fashion. One of the best disinfectants against hatred, prejudice, and discrimination is sunlight, and we should thank this research team for drawing the curtains.