- This story has been corrected; please see final paragraph
The commission rejected the federation’s application for charitable status in October. It said it did not consider that the federation fulfilled the essential characteristics of a religion or its criteria for public benefit.
Characteristics of religions, the commission said, include a belief in a single supreme being and "a degree of cohesion in the belief system".
The federation argued that being a polytheistic rather than monotheistic religion should be no bar to acquiring religious status."It feels like there is a lack of understanding by the commission as to what Paganism is," said Belinda Winder, vice-president of the federation.
"The first time we approached the commission, 15 years ago, one of its officials asked us if we sacrifice humans. I think we have come an awful long way in public understanding since then."
Winder said the commission had made the mistake of applying its definition of Christianity to other groups seeking charitable status on the grounds of religion.
"The commission views Paganism as a way of life rather than a religion, but you could say that people who are Christian have a ‘way of life’ too," said Winder.
"We would also argue that Paganism does have public benefit because it is a religion with a strong environmental creed and we promote numerous activities along these lines to our members."
Winder said winning charitable status could give the federation the legitimacy and recognition of being one of the official religions of the British Isles.
A tribunal hearing expected early next year.
- The story says the commission said that belief in a single supreme being is one characteristic of a religion. In fact the commission's guidance says one characteristic of a religion is if "the belief system involves belief in a god (or gods) or goddess (or goddesses), or supreme being, or divine or transcendental being or entity or spiritual principle, which is the object or focus of the religion".