An article in the Online Times from Matthew Parris brought this issue to my attention.
“….on Monday a new law came into force requiring fortune-tellers, clairvoyants, astrologers and mediums to stipulate explicitly that their services are for “entertainment only.”
Well, trades descriptions legislation is anciently established; but in the realms of the spirit, prophecy, invisible worlds, ghosts and human souls, it has generally been felt that the whole thing is too cloudy for law. By bringing access to other spiritual dimensions into line with access to (say) a British Airways club class lounge, and by deeming in law – for that is what this measure does – that claims about worlds undreamt of in your philosophy, Horatio, are false, Parliament has taken a serious step in principle, even if the measure itself is trivial and most clairvoyants are only jokers anyway.
What, for instance, about the “faith” community? Perhaps it’s there in the legislative small print already. There will have to be an exception in law for “religions”. Whereupon clairvoyants will presumably rename themselves spiritualists. And spiritualists will presumably claim the status of a religion. Whereupon lawmakers will stipulate that a “religion” has to centre around a deity. Whereupon Buddhism will cease to be a “religion..”
To the casual observer, “what’s the harm?” To the overall philosphy of “enlightened thought” there trouble in River City and it’s not the kind of pool one is used to shooting in the backroom. To kneel in a confessional and be absolved from “sins” is no less akin to being in a Native American sweat lodge in the presence of a Shaman, or meditating quietly with a group leader, or being in the presence of a someone who claims to be clairvoyant and speaks in tongues, or polygamists banding together in closed communities in the name of their one and only God. Why should a person who claims to have a connection with God have to put a sign up that says “for entertainment purposes only?” Because no one has locked-up publishing and motion picture rights and can prove their God’s signature entitles them to claim that they, and they only, have an exclusive right to act as if they have the best intentions or whether they are collecting tax free money to further their own beliefs at the expense of the good intentioned parishioners across the street, that they believe are lost souls. Where can the line be drawn? At what point does this become nonsense?
To close, I can say it no better than Mr. Parris so I will quote his last paragraph:
…Well you see the philosophical marsh into which this new principle leads. Is Parliament aware of any harder evidence for the efficacy of faith-healing than for the reliability of clairvoyance? I’d like to hear it. Otherwise, let the collecting boxes in church display a sign “for entertainment purposes only” and let Catholics buy candles to light “for entertainment purposes only”; and let trips to Lourdes be sold “for entertainment purposes only”. And let the raiment of the priest administering the Sacrament be embroidered likewise.