Pagan police officers can now demand holiday to celebrate Pagan festivals, after the Home Office gave its official backing to a Pagan police support group yesterday.
The move means police chiefs cannot refuse holiday requests from Pagan officers wishing to take time off during any of the eight main festivals, including Halloween and the summer solstice.
A Home Office spokesman defended the decision saying: “The Government wants a police service that reflects the diverse communities it serves.”
PC Andy Pardy, a Pagan neighbourhood beat officer in Hemel Hempstead, Hertfordshire, was one of the officers involved in setting up the Pagan Police Association.
He said: “The recognition of Paganism is a slow process, but the progress is evident.
“Officers can, for the first time, apply for leave on the festival dates relevant to their path, and allow them to work on other dates such as Christmas which bore no relevance to them.”
The changes will also mean that Pagan police officers can now swear upon paganism in court, pledging to tell the truth, not before God, but before what “they hold sacred”.
There are thought to be around 500 Pagan police officers in the UK involved in practices such as witchcraft, druidism and wiccan worship.
Last July a newspaper disclosed that one force was already allowing Pagan staff to change around their traditional bank holidays to fit with the Pagan calendar.
The same force had also appointed two Pagan chaplains.
PC Pardy said last year: “Paganism is not the new age, tree-hugging fad that some people think it is.
“It is not the clandestine, horrible, evil thing that people think it is. A lot of people think it is about dancing naked around a fire.
“But the rituals involve chanting, music and meditation. For Pagans, the practices are seen to have the same power as prayer does for Christians.”
The Office of National Statistics reported that there were 31,000 practising Pagans in England and Wales in 2001. The same survey also reported 390,000 Jedis.