Daily Bulletin


The Conversation

  • Written by Jeremy Patrick, Lecturer in Law, University of Southern Queensland
Religious freedoms should include spiritual beliefs too

Nearly a third of Australians at the last census checked “None” when asked about their religion, up from 19% in 2006. What many people might not realise is that while some “Nones” are indeed atheists or agnostics, a substantial percentage do have faith. It’s just not in mainstream religion as we generally understand it.

The number of people identifying as “spiritual but not religious” appears to be rising in the western world. A 2017 McCrindle report suggests 14% of Australians belong to this category. In the US, a Pew Research Study pegs 27% of Americans as identifying as spiritual (up 8% from five years ago).

Perhaps Australia’s understanding of faith is starting to change - not because some groups are winning or losing adherents - but because the notion of “organized religion” itself has increasingly started to fall out of favour.

Read more: Why the Supreme Court's 'gay wedding cake' ruling won't resolve religious freedom issues

Whatever the reason, this trend is particularly pertinent given the recent completion of the Ruddock review of religious freedom. Given that Australia’s religious identity appears to be changing, I think that religious freedoms should be extended to people with spiritual beliefs too.

For instance, during the Vietnam War, the Supreme Court of the United States was asked whether conscripts who didn’t believe in a Supreme Being but had spiritual beliefs opposing war could qualify for “conscientious objector” status. The Court got it right in that case, determining that even people who don’t believe in God may have spiritual beliefs worth recognition and protection.

Common spiritual beliefs include divination (such as astrology and tarot cards), alternative healing (for instance, crystals and reiki), nature as having a spiritual essence, reincarnation, and the possibility of communicating with the spirits of the departed. The popularity of “New Age” or “Mind+Body” sections in bookstores is one testament to the interests and influence of these new spiritual “seekers.”

The common trait among them is that they take a personal approach to their spirituality, picking and choosing particular beliefs from a wide variety of religious traditions and then adding in, on an a la carte basis, notions from what may be derided by many as folklore, pseudoscience, or personal intuition. Legal scholar Rebecca French calls this “grocery cart religion”.

Read more: Christians in Australia are not persecuted, and it is insulting to argue they are

In the West, the fundamental right of freedom of religion developed alongside toleration — the idea that a nation could allow more than a single religious group to operate freely within its borders. The assumption, however, was that religion was practised by organisations.

Today, when courts inquire about whether someone’s right to freedom of religion has been violated, they ask for proof that the beliefs are religious in nature and that the individual was sincere in holding them. That proof usually involves demonstrating membership of a religious group that has established moral obligations the individual was trying to follow.

But courts have historically treated idiosyncratic spiritual beliefs as unworthy of protection. The reasoning, explicit or implicit, is usually that people with spiritual beliefs aren’t really religious because any beliefs they have were lightly adopted and can be lightly discarded.

For example, a 2013 American case involved a “spiritual counsellor” named Psychic Sophie, whose beliefs drew from the New Age movement, the teachings of Jesus, natural healing, and the study of metaphysics. The courts ruled that her religious freedom claim for exemption from licensing and zoning requirements had to fail because she drew from multiple religions and philosophies to construct her worldview. The courts said that these influences on Psychic Sophie’s “inner flow” did not transform her personal philosophical beliefs into a religion.

In my view, however, the judicial understanding of freedom of religion needs to evolve alongside religion itself. What matters is that those beliefs may be just as real to the “spiritual but not religious” person as the doctrines of any established church are to a regular attendee.

Freedom of religion is premised on the notion that matters of conscience — the most cherished and deeply-held moral beliefs a person may have — should not lightly be burdened by the government. In the spirit of tolerance and generosity that animates the doctrine of freedom of religion, more should be allowed to shelter under its umbrella.

Authors: Jeremy Patrick, Lecturer in Law, University of Southern Queensland

Read more http://theconversation.com/religious-freedoms-should-include-spiritual-beliefs-too-97445

Writers Wanted

Love in the time of algorithms: would you let your artificial intelligence choose your partner?

arrow_forward

A Brief Overview of Australian Gun Laws

arrow_forward

The Conversation
INTERWEBS DIGITAL AGENCY

Politics

Prime Minister's Remarks to Joint Party Room

PRIME MINISTER: Well, it is great to be back in the party room, the joint party room. It’s great to have everybody back here. It’s great to officially welcome Garth who joins us. Welcome, Garth...

Scott Morrison - avatar Scott Morrison

Prime Minister Interview with Ben Fordham, 2GB

BEN FORDHAM: Scott Morrison, good morning to you.    PRIME MINISTER: Good morning, Ben. How are you?    FORDHAM: Good. How many days have you got to go?   PRIME MINISTER: I've got another we...

Scott Morrison - avatar Scott Morrison

Prime Minister Interview with Kieran Gilbert, Sky News

KIERAN GILBERT: Kieran Gilbert here with you and the Prime Minister joins me. Prime Minister, thanks so much for your time.  PRIME MINISTER: G'day Kieran.  GILBERT: An assumption a vaccine is ...

Daily Bulletin - avatar Daily Bulletin

Business News

Getting Ready to Code? These Popular and Easy Programming Languages Can Get You Started

According to HOLP (History Encyclopedia of Programing Languages), there are more than 8,000 programming languages, some dating as far back as the 18th century. Although there might be as many pr...

News Co - avatar News Co

Avoid These Mistakes When Changing up Your Executive Career

Switching up industries is a valid move at any stage in your career, even if you’re an executive. Doing so at this stage can be a lot more intimidating, however, and it can be quite difficult know...

News Co - avatar News Co

4 Costly Mistake To Avoid When Subdividing Your Property

As a property developer or landowner, the first step in developing your land is subdividing it. You subdivide the property into several lots that you either rent, sell or award to shareholders. ...

News Co - avatar News Co



News Co Media Group

Content & Technology Connecting Global Audiences

More Information - Less Opinion